Does not speaking Spanish make you less Hispanic?
The other day I came across an interesting post on Hispanic culture. The main topic of the discussion was whether not speaking Spanish made you any less Hispanic. More than an objective question, it was a good way to learn how Hispanics look at themselves in relation to the language they speak.
So, do you personally think that not speaking Spanish makes you less Hispanic? Why or why not?
Statistics show that the average age of Hispanics in the United States is about 27 years old. With more and more Hispanics being of second, third or further generations, the chances that a lot of them will not speak Spanish increases. And in fact, the majority of the Hispanics who don’t speak Spanish tend to be young people in their teens and twenties.
One young person wrote about his experience on the topic saying, “The sad and frustrating thing to be Hispanic and not speak Spanish is the feeling of alienation. My parents had good intentions but overlooked the consequences. When I was very young I did not speak English, and as I got older, I forgot my Spanish.”
I personally believe that being Hispanic does not depend entirely on speaking the language. Sure, it is a big part of the whole and a lot of the cultural charge is transmitted through language, but the fact that you, or someone you know does not speak Spanish “right”, should not alienate them from their own culture.
In the last few years, however, a new cultural movement has been taking place among Hispanic Americans. The phenomenon is called “retroculturation”, or rediscovering one’s original culture and embracing and celebrating its uniqueness and how it relates to them.
A priest working with Hispanic youth in the United States used to say, “We should not forget our history, because we run the risk of losing ourselves”. This is exactly why many Hispanics are coming back to their roots, to find a part of themselves and their identity.
And, like the experience of the young person above, you should never feel alienated. Seek ways to reconnect and celebrate, rather than feeling frustrated and a stranger. Talk to your parents about your family history, listen to a story from a grandparent, take a Spanish class or read a book, listen to music, or talk to others that are also going through those experiences. All these are ways to stay, reconnect or celebrate your Hispanicity.
All in all, we are all member of one Hispanic culture, weather we speak the language or not. And we are more similar than different if you stop to think about it. The challenge is to be proud of who you are and where you come from, regardless of the place or crowd. Love who you are and be proud of it!