A few months ago when I was at the Catalina Magazine party in L.A., I met a really cool woman who is a marketing guru and pug mommy. Whenever I talk to someone whose first language is Spanish, I know that sooner or later they’re going to hate me. Or, pity me. Frankly, I don’t know which one is worse.
No matter what we’re talking about – cuisine, travel, books, people we work with – the conversation always boils down to The Question: “¿Hablas español?” I try to draw out the moment before I answer. There is a friendship at stake. But then I must answer no and the light in their eyes switches off and the conversation, no matter how engaging it had been, is over.
But this woman threw me for a loop. Her reply was, “Oh. So anyway, do you want to see a picture of my baby?”
I was fully prepared with my apology and explanation my mom had been advised to stop speaking Spanish to me by my first grade teacher, etc. But she didn’t care, didn’t judge. It was a momentous moment!
And still, I’ve thought about it on and off ever since until today when I started this entry. Spanish whispers to me from my subconscious because I can pick up the gist of a conversation or a song. But it is rooted in my soul. When I hear the guitarron or the chorus of Volver Volver, my soul stirs even though I had to read the English translation to fully understand the words.
But do you want to know the craziest thing? My Little Dude loves mariachi! I played Guadalajara for him and he went nuts, bouncing up and down while clapping his hands and screaming. (He can’t quite pull off a grito, but give him time.)
If Mariachi can excite a fourteen month-old who – if you want to get technical about it – is half Mexican, a quarter Irish and an eighth German and an eighth Hungarian; then perhaps the spirit of Spanish is stronger than actual words. It is the umbilical cord that connects us to the revolutionaries, the conquistadors, the Aztecs and the Mayans; it is rooted in and thrives from the soul.
Am I a broken link in that history just because I rely on my trusty, Making Friends in Mexico to understand Spanish? Are my stories, my son a discontinuation of these people?
Nope. Nada de eso.
(Translation: Not at all.)