No Hablo Espanol This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


"Hola," Ireply.

"¿Como tellama?"


"Mariana..." the person continues in Spanish.

"Um... no hablo espanol."

"What! You don't speakSpanish!" they say with a shocked expression that clearlysays, "Shame on you!"

This is how a typicalconversation between an older Latino person and me begins. Bythe time we reach this part, I feel both self-conscious andembarrassed.

I am Puerto Rican-American and proud ofit, but I do not speak Spanish fluently. I understand a fewphrases and get the gist of others, but I cannot speak Spanishas well as most would expect of a typical Hispanicperson.

The reason? When I was young, my bilingualparents only taught me English. English is my first languageand the one I am most comfortable with. Does this make me lessof a Latino?

Some people think so. When I reveal that Idon't speak what most would consider my native tongue, theyare aghast. "How can you call yourself a trueLatino?" some ask with a disgusted look on their face.They feel this means I do not know my own culture, but that isfar from the truth. I am so proud of my heritage; I know thehistory of my people as well as what is happening with Latinoculture. I love the music, customs and food. In fact, the moreI learn about my culture, the better I feel as an individual.And with all of the recent news of Latinos' success, my prideis growing. So ¡por favor! Don't question my ethnicitybecause I don't speak Spanish.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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writingrox said...
Oct. 23, 2009 at 6:17 pm
This is just like me. I know a lot about my heritage and what important people there were, but I can't speak much Spanish. I hope people can learn no matter what language people speak, they can be proud of their heritage.
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