Going back home is always a bittersweet experience for me. It is so great to see all my family again and eat all the food I had been craving. At the same time going home always reminds me how much things have changed, and also how much I have changed. One thing I realized this Thanksgiving break is how bad my Spanish is getting.
Every year that I am away from home it seems my Spanish gets worse and my Spanglish improves. While in El Paso I found it harder than ever to have a conversation in Spanish with my grandparents or my boyfriend's parents who speak only Spanish. I felt embarrassed that I couldn't even explain how my semester was going to the people who care about me without pausing for a long "ummm". To add to that embarrassment I received the scores from the Spanish credit by exam I took hoping I could save myself from taking Spanish in college. The test was incredibly hard for me and I wasn't surprised that I only received credit for one semester of Spanish.
I was beyond disappointed with myself for doing so bad on my test! I thought to myself how can I possibly claim to be Mexican American when I can't even speak Spanish correctly. Spanish was my first language taught to me by my grandmother who took care of me everyday for the first five years of my life. However at home my parents would speak to me in Spanish but I was never required to answer back in Spanish. During my first years in elementary school I had forgotten most of my Spanish. Since I was so light skinned many of my peers thought I was a gringa who didn't know Spanish, and I think I eventually started to believe that myself. I had to deal with people constantly ridiculing me for not being "Mexican" enough. People felt that they had to translate things for me when they spoke Spanish around me, even though I understood them perfectly well. After a while I guess I just gave up on trying to be "Mexican" enough, and only used Spanish when I absolutely had to.
When I came to college I hardly ever had to use Spanish and I hate to admit that made me very relieved. But after doing so poorly on my exam I have started to realize how important my Spanish is to me. Speaking really bad Spanish with a really good accent just isn't going to cut it anymore. In a way I'm glad I did poorly on my exam, it was a big wake up call. Now I'm actually looking forward to taking Spanish courses! I'll be able to go back home and be a bit more confident when I'm having a conversation in Spanish. Being bilingual is such an important part of being a Latina! I refuse to forget my Spanish, it reminds me of my childhood, my grandparents, my home and my beautiful culture. I'm confident that once I polish my Spanish it will be a source of comfort for me rather than embarrassment. I'm looking forward to the day when I can have a conversation in Spanish without getting sweaty, turing red and saying "ummm.....".