My mother didn’t speak Spanish to us when we were growing up in the Bronx, but I took enough Spanish in school to develop a decent accent. By now, however, I have what could be considered a six-year-old child’s vocabulary. Hence, it’s easier to tell people that I don’t speak Spanish at all. It’s especially troublesome now that I’ve lived in California for over 30 years.
I run into trouble when I see a Puerto Rican flag hanging from a rear-view mirror. I have to resist the urge to yell out, “Oye, Boriqua!” but cultural pride gets the best of me. Almost immediately after the words pass my lips, I cringe inside, knowing what’s going to happen next.
My new-found compatriot starts a conversation with me. In Spanish.
I nod and smile a lot, then, in English, excuse myself.