What Spanish Means To Me

Here’s a post I left in the “draft” stage for quite some time. I’ve been living in Oregon for 8 months already. If you do the math this post stayed in draft for four months. I finished it and here it is.

The topic of language has been a steady constant since my move away from home four months ago. Home for me is the San Fernando Valley, an urbanized area north of Los Angeles. Moving to a rural part of Oregon has been challenging in many ways- in particular not having anyone to speak Spanish to. 

It might seem trivial, maybe even banal, but for me it’s been almost tragic. The sound of different voices, tonalities, accents, and mixtures of language is sorely missed.

The question I ask myself now is: why do I miss it so much? Spanish represents so many things to me. It stands for family, home (the actual, physical home), intimacy- in general, familiarity. Have you ever heard the saying that something said in Spanish means much more? I can’t recall the exact phrase, but it’s something we say and it’s especially more meaningful now. 

 I finished reading Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory: The Education of Rirchard Rodriguez and he brought up so many points regarding language. I thought it very telling of how some things in life are experienced thematically such as this that I am going through. I have moved to a rural area that has a racial makeup of 91% White and 5.5% Latino/HIspanic- i guess I knew what I was walking into, but I wasn’t expecting it to affect me this much. I wanted to keep home close to me in some way, so I looked up groups of which to be a part. I found none. I looked up Mexican Restaurants and surprisingly there are more than a hand full, but it’s not like I can ask the staff to sit and talk to me. 

After my arrival I decided to just ride the wave. To let things be. It hasn’t been easy but I’ve gotten used to it. I turn my head in a whipping motion every time I hear Spanish and I do a double take at a brown face. I hope that I bring familiarity to those I see that have the same complexion as they do to me. Even if we don’t say a word to each other I hope the look in my eyes and the smile that comes along with it gives the person the notion that I am right there with them- even if I don’t know where “there” is for them. 

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5 thoughts on “What Spanish Means To Me

  1. Hello, I just found your blog today. I can relate..when I travel for work to places like Arkansas and Iowa I get homesick. Well more than homesick. You’re right, language isn’t something we think about as you are packing your bags, unless going to another country. My solution– a small ritual I do whenever I go somewhere that doesn’t have many Spanish speakers…I find a Walmart and buy a can of menudo to eat in the hotel. Great post. I’m looking forward to reading more.

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