Saturday, November 8, 2008

Loss of Language and Identity

My essay for my non-fiction class is to create an argument with the theme being about language. I'm writing my essay on how I was brought up speaking both Spanish and English, thanks to my grandma. She died when I was ten years old, and along with her went my Spanish language. I also lost my identity about who I was as a Mexican woman.

This is just a start. Lots more to come.

_ _ _
My mom tells me that I spoke Spanish before I spoke English, and I don’t find that very hard to believe. My mom was a hard working businesswoman, and in no-offense to her, she wasn’t around much during the week while I was growing up, and neither was my dad; my grandmother was always there for me. I was fortunate to have my grandmother, Esperanza, live with my family and me while I was growing up. Unfortunately, I acted as most children do, and I took her being around for granted.

Esperanza never learned much English, she never really had to. She moved to an area of California, Bell Gardens, where carniceria’s and panaderia’s littered every block, and Spanish was the language of choice. Shortly after my mom got pregnant with me, Esperanza moved into my parent's house in Downey to help my mom out and to essentially watch over me once my mom ran out her maternity leave.

While I grew up learning the Spanish language, I don’t recall myself ever really grasping and learning my culture. Growing up in Los Angeles, I figured everyone knew Spanish and that there wasn’t really any culture behind it besides the one I was living in. I thought that was the root of it all. It would end up taking me more than ten years after my grandmother’s death to fully grasp my culture, where I came from, and what it meant to be a Mexican-American woman.

Esperanza died in the late summer of 1997, I was about to turn ten years old. Along with my grandmother’s death went my Spanish language. She was the only person who I practiced my native language with. On our occasional trips to the swap meets in Lakewood, I would also get to practice speaking Spanish. But on a daily basis, she was the only one. My mom would talk to my grandma in Spanish, but to me in English. After my grandmother’s death, my mom did realize how important keeping my language alive was. She promised me that she would speak to me only in Spanish, and I agreed to respond back in Spanish. However, that promise was never held up on either end. We both became consumed in our daily rituals, and to all fairness, my father was a red-blooded American hailing from the South, and he didn’t speak Spanish at all. My mom and I would promise that Saturday would be the day, or that the following day would be the day that we would start. But those days never came.

No comments: