I am sure I am not the first fully bilingual person who had an A-HA moment as the one I am embracing at the moment. It may not be as significant to the likes of many out there, but if a certain "bilingues y hasta trilingues" are reading this, I trust they will indeed give me a virtual high five or a fist pump!
Yo hablo español y al que no le gusta, pues, que se puede pedir, ojalá pudiera hablarlo también....
I say that in the most respectful way. I speak Spanish and if you don't like it, sorry, I wish you could speak it too.
Born and raised speaking one language can be hard enough for anyone. I mean, really, who loves grammar lessons at school in ANY language? Having said that, from an early age, I fell hard, hard, in love with the English language. I would sit for hours watching TV "ien inglés!" and repeat phrases, words, sing songs, memorize then recite full scripts ranging from "Annie" to "Gone With the Wind."
Becoming an English major was probably one of the best decisions I have ever made, allowing me to write and express myself, thoughts, points of view and opinions about a work of fiction, among other things. I was happy, intellectually stimulated and motivated to want more, to thrive and to not settle.
Landing jobs after colleges came easier than expected, having voices inside my head still echoing "You don't belong in the English department. You have no business here." Yet, instead of feeling proud and milking my "bilingués" -I think I just made that one up!- I was determined to be the best English speaker there was. I perfected my accent, boasting I didn't have an accent to speak off and made sure I was not pigeon held as the token Latina like it was job. It was mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically, exhausting--headaches every evening at 6:00 p.m. only to be soothed by Juan Luis Guerra y 4:40 merengue CDs playing in the car. I needed my Spanish. I needed what came naturally to me...
I remember many people pushing and strongly suggesting ("suggesting" used loosely) that I become the Latina this or the Latina that of any company or organization. I refused, I rebelled. I fought long and hard to make my mark as everything except who I was. What was I? Who am I? A college educated bilingual bad-ass that can relate to people from different cultures with an open mind, can speak and write fluently in two languages and has finally, truly and whole-heartedly appreciated the second language is just that... a second language. The main, primary, mother and native tongue or language is what naturally flows from me... in words, in actions, in mind, in body and soul.
Blessed I have been to travel and lived in many different countries and cultures, lucky to have friends who have taught me to say "I love you" in Swedish as well as in German and French, I now speak Spanish more than English in my day to day.
Whether it is working with a student from Puerto Rico, who needs help filling out a college application or doesn't understand what FAFSA means, or praying along side Doña Cecilia, whose daughter is ill and needs la Virgencita to watch over her, I do it en español.
Being bilingual is a gift I want and need to share with the world. I hope my son some day also realizes the same thing and embraces his roots and language of his parents and every member of his family, regardless how mid-western he may feel. Now, every day, I look forward to finding material to translate, calls to return and interpret, prayers to share, all in Spanish. Finally!!! Working every day using a God-given talent and ability and NOT keep it to myself. It is my responsibility to use this gift for the benefit of my community, to help my people. Mi gente.
If you need me, se habla español! :)