I speak Spanish. ¿Y que?

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Yo hablo español.

Me vale verga lo que dicen. Me vale verga lo que crean.

Si joden con mi lenguaje, yo les jodo con una valiente rebeldía, en español, con mas fuerza, y con una voz mas alta.

No nos van a silenciar. No nos esconderemos con miedo.

Hablare con orgullo. Abiertamente, y libremente.

I speak Spanish. It is my first language. I grew up speaking it. I grew up writing in it. I grew up in households immersed by it. It is part of my culture, my identity. It is an attribute that I am proud to hold. It keeps me connected to my raices in a land that for long has tried to rob us from freely expressing our Latinidad.

My mother and father illegally immigrated to the United States. Left Nicaragua. Made their way to Mexico and crossed the Rio Grande with coyotes. They did so separately. My mother while pregnant with me.

They reunited in Miami, along with family from my mother's side. We lived in a small two bedroom apartment with my uncle. Next door lived my aunt, uncle, and two cousins. My mother left behind her studies in Chemistry and took a job in McDonald's. Today, she is proudly the store manager of one. My father worked late nights at a local home improvement store. When they first arrived they only knew Spanish. I still marvel at the thought of how they came to a foreign land without knowing the predominant language and learned to speak it. Not perfectly. With an accent. But they learned it. My father even enrolled in a community college later on and received an Associates degree--a feat I did not fully appreciate; not having realized how much must have gone into it at his age and without fluently speaking the language.

At home we spoke Spanish. Always. It was their native tongue, and they made sure that it became mine as well while growing up. They believed it would keep us all connected to where we came from and that it would be beneficial for me in the long run. It was also, you know, easier for them to communicate in Spanish. Their vocabulary was not limited. There would not be a sense of feeling stupid. And after long hours of speaking in another culture's language, I imagine it was a relief to come home to their very own. Plus, they knew the English language would come to dominate my everyday life once I was enrolled in school. But at home, en casa de mis tias y tios (y las tias y tios that you’re not really related to), en case de mis abuelitas...we spoke Spanish. 

I was born and raised in Miami, where now it seems almost impossible to do anything without knowing some Spanish. Even the way we speak English in Miami is influenced by the fact that Spanish is so prevalent everywhere you go in this city. In elementary school, it was part of our curriculum. One hour a week was devoted to speaking and writing in Spanish—even non-Spanish speakers had their own separate curriculum that would help them learn the language. All of my friends grew up in Spanish speaking households. A trip to their homes meant some light conversations in Spanish (and the quintessential, “Quieres comer?").  A trip to my aunt and uncle's home after school, always consisted of watching telenovelas or Cristina or Primer Impacto on the television network, Univision. En el supermercado, in restaurants we ate in, la gasolinera, the airport, the dentist, the local pharmacy…Spanish.

During Summer breaks, from elementary up until high school, my parents wisely made it a priority that I spend the complete Summer break in Nicaragua. I had no choice but to only speak Spanish, as my family living in Nicaragua did not know English. It helped me learn more of the language (or at least the Nica version of it), making it easier for me to communicate with my family, my people, my culture. I picked up slang terms, learned new words that are only used (or mean something completely different) in the Nica version of Spanish, and felt even closer to my roots. I could hold my own in conversation. 

Later in life, I went to a predominantly white university, miles away from Miami, in what felt like middle of nowhere Tallahassee, Florida. It was here where my pride for the Spanish language and the people who speak it became immeasurable. For some time, I had nobody to speak the language with. I quickly learned here that greeting people with a kiss on the cheek was not a common practice, but rather a whole other language to some people. It was here where I was faced with ignorance... sometimes attributed to others' lack of education or exposure to diversity; other times, blatant racism. I was confronted by the stereotypes I had only read about in books or seen on television. I remember being paraded around sometimes; being asked to just say things, anything in Spanish. There were moments of loneliness. It was here where I felt like I was now in a land where I didn’t know the language, I didn’t belong, miles away from my culture and losing sense of my identity. 

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A year and a half in, I heard a loud Panamanian woman saying a few words in Spanish in the hallways and elevator of our dormitory; I clung onto her for the rest of my time there. She introduced me to her friends, who then introduced me to more friends--many of whom spoke Spanish. Different versions of it, but you get it. We would break out into Spanish or Spanglish conversations, we listened and sang to Shakira, Marc Anthony, Carlos Vives, Reggaeton, traditional folklore songs, and at the end of each fiesta we threw, we would blast the "Pasame La Botella" song! We would cook and eat comida that our families would cook for us at home. Looking back on it, we did as much as we could to make our version of home there. We all remain dear and close friends to this day. 

After college, I moved back to Miami. I needed to. I had not realized how much of myself was deeply rooted in language. In Spanish. How just hearing a single word in the Spanish language could fill my heart with so much joy and connection.

Spanish makes me feel normal. Home. Safe. It helps me express myself better, convey my thoughts or feelings more passionately. When I can't find the right words in English, I can find them in Spanish. Spanish created a close bond between my mother, my father, my family, and me. It represents their struggles. Their fight for a better life... for not only themselves, but for their children. It represents their intelligence and success in learning a new language, and their resolve to never deny or be ashamed of their native one. It honors an aspect of our background. It taught me how to interact with others. It taught me to be proud. Unapologetic. To care, to be loud. It helped me form my identity. For so many of us, it has played a starring role in our lives. It makes up a part of who we are individually and it ties us together as a community. It taught me its incredible ability to bring tanta gente from diverse countries and backgrounds together through it. Even though we all have a different relationship with or form of speaking it, it brings us together. 

That is the power in Spanish. Whether we speak Spanish fluently, so-so, not so much, Spanglish, or none whatsoever, we fight for it and stand against the bigotry, the prejudice, the ignorance, the hate, the oppressors. It is the world's second most spoken native language (after Mandarin Chinese). It is estimated that there are 572 million Spanish speakers as a first or second language. It is the second most learned language in the United States and the official language in 20 countries (the United States has no official language). And that is what they fear. That is why they intimidate; are resentful. Because there is power in Spanish

I will continue to speak Spanish. Even louder. Y con más sazón. No one can ever tell me that I cannot. No one can ever tell me to stop. I will continue to speak Spanish. Whether I'm being threatened with ICE, harassed with hate, in a metropolitan city, or where it's "very unheard of", I will continue to speak Spanish and say,

Yo hablo espanol.

Me vale verga lo que dicen. Me vale verga lo que crean.

Si joden con mi lenguaje, yo les jodo con una valiente rebeldía, en espanol, con mas fuerza, y con una voz mas alta.

No nos van a silenciar. No nos esconderemos con miedo.

Hablare con orgullo. Abiertamente, y libremente.

 

Mujer en revolt,

Marivette