While many people think that all Latin@s speak Spanish the same, eat chalupas, and watch telenovelas, that’s not the case. Our Latin@ culture varies by country.
I’ll start with the language. It’s not just Spanish.
I immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when I was 3. I spoke Spanish and English until my teachers told my parents I didn’t speak enough English. So, they spoke to me in English and I started to forget Spanish. Then, they had to reteach it to me. To this day, I struggle with gender agreements when I say things like “el mano” instead of “la mano”.
I didn’t really think there were so many variations of Spanish until I traveled to Spain and Ecuador. In Spain, I knew that they pronounced things differently, and that a common saying in 2011 was “Vale, tia, no pasa nada”. In Ecuador, I noticed that people used the pronoun “Vos” instead of “tu”. In order to say “how cool”, they would say chevere. My mexican family members say que padre. In Nicaragua, I’ve started to say que tuani.
After having lived in Nicaragua, I’ve learned that the pronoun “vos” comes with it’s own set of conjugations. Now, I experience a light-hearted cultural clash when I skype with my mom. I used to only speak to her in the “tu” form. Now, I vacillate between wanting to call her “usted” because she is an adult, and “vos”, after I remind myself that she doesn’t want to be called “usted”.
My mom wrinkles her nose and laughs at me now when I speak in Spanish because I don’t pronounce the ends of my words now, which is something I always did while speaking “Mexican” Spanish.
In Mexico, I call my grandma “tu”. I would be weird for me to call her with the respectful“usted”. Here, I even catch myself calling friends who are my age “usted” sometimes.
It’s interesting that people here can easily switch and understand the “tu” form, because of how Mexican spanish dominates different media outlets, whether it’s soap operas or music.
Nicas also understand that I’m asking for a pajilla (straw) when I say popote. Or that I’m talking about a swimming pool when I say alberca instead of piscina. Old habits die hard, but I’ve learned to make the switch. Sometimes.
I’ll leave you with this video about how Spanish, like all languages, is a living, dynamic entity that bends and molds depending on the context. Thanks Danica for the spoken word performance by Melissa Lozada-Oliva.
What does your language represent to you?