– those were the words mi mami told me as I was schlepping through the George Washington Bridge this afternoon in New York’s harshest winter in perfect spanglish! It’s funny because I knew exactly what she meant and I even responded “Ok, mami”.
We’ve always talked like that. Naturally using whichever words came to mind, regardless of the tongue we spoke at that time. We are the displaced generation.
You know the kind. The first generation Americans with immigrant parents, raised in English speaking public school systems while doing homework in a Spanish speaking home. Translating for our parents during conferences and strategically leaving out what “talkative” means.
The displaced generation. I call us the displaced generation because we’re home to two places and home to none. Flying back to DR in the summer being called a gringa and coming back to the states and being referred to as the spanish girl – ‘mind you, I hadn’t had the slightest idea where Spain was at the time.
The displaced generation. Loving and hating your roots all the while loving and hating the states. Comparing your lifestyle in la isla and your lifestyle on the block – praying you could have a fusion of the two.
The displaced generation. Unable to master the Spanish language because of your English education and unable to master English because of your custom of speaking strictly Spanish outside of the four walls of your school.
I know, I know. Actually, I didn’t even realize how displaced we were until I went for an interview at a defense attorney’s office recently. He asked me about my skills section which included “fluent in Spanish”. He asked, “Ok, great! So if I give you legal documents from Argentina, will you be able to interpret them?” I was shocked to say, “Well… No. I understand Spanish very well. I can read, write, and speak it very well. But, I’d have to use a translator to look some technical words up.”
–And there it is. The words I genuinely in my heart of hearts *HATE* saying: “I can’t.” I had no OTHER choice but to disclose my deficiency. When I asked my other “displaced” friends, they told me the same thing. “I don’t think I could understand a legal document in Spanish as I would in English”… but for why???
Because, we never master one without the interruption of the other. Our stubbornness to refuse the inevitable assimilation to American customs and attempting to retain some Latin identity is the only reason why we’re still straddling the line.
…. but I like the line. I like the incomplete assimilation. I like that I can frolic to beats and bust a reverse Cuba in Salsa within the drop of a dime. My broken Spanish and half-assed English is me.
Keep me unassimilated.