How I Lost My Spanish
I usually don’t write too many personal posts because I have trouble believing that anyone would be interested, but after the last one, I just felt like there was so much more to say. So…the story of how I lost my Spanish…yes, fue mi culpa (it’s my own fault!).
When I first met my husband I became immersed in Spanish. I practiced everyday, decided to study it in college and listened to as many Spanish music CDs as I could get my hands on. I was a fast learner and loved the language and culture so much that I switched my major and decided to pursue Spanish full-time.
I thew everything into it, started teaching Spanish at my church and tutoring Spanish to 101 students in college. I gained favor in my church and was even elected to serve as director and co-chair for our church’s Hispanic fiesta. I translated many of the materials on my own and was holding conversations within the community. Then, one stupid mistake changed everything…probably the most embarrassing thing to admit of all the decisions I’ve made in life.
I let naysayers get the best of me. Not just any naysayers, but my in-laws who at first were honored that I was so involved and then later decided that I didn’t belong. They reminded me of it every time I spoke Spanish and constantly warned me that Latinos would not accept a white girl running the fiesta. “But, they asked me“, I insisted. “They’re just asking you because nobody else wants to do it,” my cuñada insisted, “Don’t you see how they look at you and Ricky (my hubby)?”
I began to doubt myself and whether I was really accepted. I got nervous about speaking Spanish and I began to recoil in my level of involvement. I don’t know that I did it on purpose, but the feelings of doubt continued and I slowly became less and less involved in the Hispanic community at that time.
The funny thing is, I never felt like I didn’t belong until they told me so. No one in our church or anywhere else had ever said a thing to make me feel like I didn’t belong. They loved that I was making an effort to understand and participate in their world. My husband never made me feel like an outsider either, he had always been proud of my speaking Spanish. I should have listened to him and his kind words instead of allowing their negative ideas to plant the seed of doubt in my mind.
I know it was my fault, that I shouldn’t have let them sway me from something I loved so much.
Recently, I’ve been getting back on track, putting time and effort into relearning what I’ve lost over the last three years and raising my daughter bilingual, but I can’t help but feel completely ridiculous for letting them get to me. I’m embarrassed even writing this post because of what a fool I have been. I suppose I had my husband’s mother and sister on a pedestal of sorts. I looked to them for advice and believed them when they insisted that they meant to “protect” us from being hurt by other Latinos that didn’t like seeing us together. Funny thing is though, they were the only ones that ever hurt us.
They made fun of my husband at every turn and mi cuñada even had the callous to claim that hubby was “not a real Latino” because he’s not fluent in Spanish (she studied in college) and isn’t macho. It seemed as if she assumed that I was with him to “get a taste” of being Latino and that I was setting myself up to be disappointed when I finally realized that he wasn’t “a real Mexican”. This is so much to confess, but I really have a lot of hurt from my relationship with my suegra and cuñada, who at first accepted me.
I’ve written about this a little before in “The Wrath of La Cuñada,” but there is just so much to say and nobody who I can really relate to. I’ve tried to talk to my suegros about these issues in the past, but few things are ever resolved. So far we haven’t spoken to them for over a year, which hasn’t been easy, but it has been peaceful. My hubby and I just aren’t strong enough to take all the heavy criticisms that never seem to stop coming. I don’t have to tell you moms what we can get like when someone cuts down our kids or parenting skills…enough said! We are on a hiatus for an undetermined period of time.
Regardless of all that has happened, I don’t hold any grudges against my suegros and I still love the language and culture. I never stopped speaking completely…my husband and I still used our Spanglish at home, but I failed to create opportunities for using Spanish daily with church members, community leaders and friends. I shied away from the interactions with Spanish speakers and didn’t participate in church as much because I didn’t want to have conflict with my in-laws, who were also pretty active church members.
Once we moved away though, everything became easier again. I could be myself and not have to worry about how it reflected on my in-laws or if they approved of something I did or didn’t do within the Hispanic community or who I chose to befriend. I definitely don’t think moving away is for everyone…the best ending for us would have been one that allowed us to have a great relationship with my hubby’s family. Unfortunately, we didn’t see that as an option.
Either way, I am thankful for the other Latinos and Latinas who have made us a part of their familias and for the like-minded individuals I’ve found online who help “fill gaps” (as Rocky would say). :)