I am Latina No Habla Espanol

Erica Renee Contreras
Houston, TX

I’m from San Antonio Texas, quite possibly the most acculturated city with majority Latinos in the US. Growing up there was always so confusing. I don’t speak a word of Spanish. I live with the fact that no matter who I’m talking to, I inevitably end up feeling guilty for my lack of language skills. If you approach me speaking Spanish I’m offended you would assume I speak Spanish first. Then when you realize I don’t speak Spanish and you have the audacity to look down on me, I wonder why? Then I feel guilty because I should know the language, even if my last name wasn’t Contreras.

Keep the conversation going - comment and discuss with your thoughts

  • dmmifflin

    I just heard the piece with Alicia O’Brien on the radio. I find it quite whiney. Every high school in the United States offers Spanish and every college does as well. I understand that there is some sadness and some personal regret not to have grown up bi-lingually, but learning a foreign language as a young person or even as an adult is perfectly doable. And it’s Spanish, for heaven’s sake, not Hungarian, like my friend’s ethnicity, or Swedish, which has to be learned in a Saturday program. My neighbor speaks passable German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese and doesn’t share any of those heritages. Maybe Michelle should be a therapist, not a radio journalist. Empower yourself – you can learn how to say ‘I love you’ in Spanish!

    • Lisa

      Fair, but I doubt if people walk up and assume someone “looks” Swedish or German.

  • Lydia Palma

    You are not alone. I grew up in Houston, TX with my entire mother’s side of the family being Mexican and wished my mother would have spoken more spanish at home especially as a young child so that I would have had a better chance. I took several years of spanish in highschool and even one in college where I test at a college level 3 but have extreme difficulty speaking it with others especially with native speakers. I can understand more than I speak but still my fear and lack of feeling i belong or fit in on either side has been holding me back from practicing. I know I must get through that in order to practice and become proficient at spanish.

  • Shleimer Sternberg

    Well if I was Hispanic I wouldn’t care much for my culture beyond the tacos either.

  • Jeffery Steinblatt

    I understand. If I were Hispanic, I wouldn’t want anything to do with my deadbeat culture much more than the tacos.

  • Lydia Palma

    Not sure you read past the second sentence. I do not blame her; there is only myself to blame. I have been trying but not hard enough obviously. My only reason for the mention of my mother is that it is part of who she is and where she has come from and that I would of enjoyed understanding more of that part of her. It has taught me that I want to do different by my children. I want to try to be my complete self and share it with my children give them all that I can and one I believe is helping them become bilingual. We see the world through different eyes, that is what makes this world so fascinating.

  • Guest

    If you want to be complete why don’t you learn Latin then. Castilian is just Latin butchered by idiots and barbarians.

  • Lisa

    Yes, it does. One of the benefits of being able to speak Spanish is that I can read other news sources and get a different perspective of what goes on in the world. We are extremely limited by what we are able to understand. I hope you are able to learn Spanish (if you want to!), but never feel pressured to out of obligation.

    Si, lo hizo. Un buen cosa que resultado de aprender espanol es que puedo leer noticias en otra lengua y puedo tener otra vista del mundo. Somos limitados de que podemos entender. Espero que puedes aprender espanol (si quieres) pero nunca siente que necessitas por alguien.

  • Lydia Palma

    Your idea of complete is different than mine. The idea of being complete is not just doing something and checking off the list. It is more of a feeling and a way of being that makes someone complete. And I am not sure with our continuous growth in the years and experiences we live that we truly reach completeness.

  • Lydia Palma

    Muchas gracias por su repsuesta positiva! Valid point few admit to. I have met and experienced first hand the difference between being bilingual+ and not when I studied abroad. It is amazing, and am happy to see that America is realizing the benefits. More and more are speaking their native tongue and teaching it to their children.


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