What it is like being Latina and not speaking Spanish fluently

Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15 through October 15. It celebrates the history and culture of people with ancestry in Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking countries of the Americas. The observance started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week. September 15 is an important day for many Latin American countries. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua — celebrate their independence on the 15th. It is a month of celebration, culture and love. It is also a time I realize one of my biggest flaws.

I am of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage. I didn’t grow up and in Mexico or Puerto Rico and my Spanish is awful. My father is 100% Mexican and my mother is both Mexican and Puerto Rican. Since I am more familiar with my mother’s family history, I will provide those details for this blog post.

My mother’s paternal grandmother, Stella was born in Chicago. Her parents were born in Michoacán, Mexico and came to The United States before my great grandmother was born. My mother’s maternal grandparents, Rosa and Angel were born in Puerto Rico and came to Chicago when my grandparents and great aunts and uncles were children. Both set of grandparents from my mother’s side started new lives in Chicago and worked extremely hard to provide the best opportunities for their families.

I couldn’t imagine what it was like for my family between the 1930’s-1960’s and being Latino/a in Chicago. I’m sure they faced racial tensions, were belittled because of their background, and discriminated against. Nonetheless the Guerra and Rosado family became generational and blossomed in Chicago.

I am very proud to be Latina. It is something I have never been ashamed of and the biggest part of who I am. However, my Spanish is completely flawed. I really can’t explain why. I know I didn’t practice it enough as a child and by middle school I was too embarrassed by my accent to even try. When it came to taking a foreign language in high school I decided to learn French as an act of rebellion. Have I used any of the French I learned for four years? No. If I were to go back in time would I take French again? Not at all.

Not speaking Spanish is one of my biggest insecurities. I feel like I am constantly getting judged for not being Latina enough and “talking like a White girl.”  It also brings plenty of lost opportunities in work and my community.

I have been making more of an effort to practice my Spanish. My Selena y Los Dinos crew is great at speaking Spanglish to me and have gotten better at not explaining what they are saying. There is still usually a lack of confidence within me and I reply back in English– habit which is hard to break. My co-workers try to speak more Spanish to me as well and when given the opportunity to speak Spanish at work, I try.  I did download duolingo, which is a language learning app available on for your phone. I try to practice on my commute to work.

Sometimes people think since I don’t speak Spanish well it is because I am ashamed of being Latina. My heritage and culture run through my veins. I love everything about being Latina. Food and family are very important to me. I love learning the recipes passed down from my grandmother’s to my mother and now to my sister and I. Not only does cooking bring me pleasure in feeding the people I care about, but I love the bond and connection the Latino household kitchen brings. I enjoy the music from both Mexico and Puerto Rico, My siblings and I joke how my mother blasts and sings to her favorite salsa music every Saturday morning while cleaning and we tried to sleep in, but I find myself doing the same exact thing. Vicente Fernández reminds me of Sunday’s and having breakfast with my grandma Stella. I listen to his music when I need to reflect on things.  My apartment has so many Puerto Rican and Mexican flags, you would think I was running a gift shop.  All of my favorite authors and artists all are of Latino background. It took a good three years for me to read anything else but magical realism. My favorite places I’ve traveled have all been Latin American countries. My culture is rich and my family is passionate and hardworking– those are characteristics passed down to me and could never be taken away.

So to the Latinos who don’t speak Spanish or have trouble speaking the language. Don’t Worry. You are Latino enough.



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