The Spanish language runs through me like roots that mark a beginning. The sounds of el, la, ina, and ora, circle around me like the rings of a tree. My family left their country amid words of Spanish and began their new lives in America, arriving with words of Spanish. They were unable to stay under their country's government, no matter how deep their desire to remain, but they were always able to stay in their language.
I have lived in America my entire life. But with the loss of my father, mother, and grandmother, the first generation to be in this country, I feel the slow pull away between me and my first language. I fear this separation and I know that I am a poor cover of the sound that my family brought with them.
My uneasiness comes from knowing that I am adrift without the original sound of my childhood. To hear Spanish, is to hear home. Spanish centers me, it takes me to who I am and without it, I don't see a road ahead of me. If I leave the Spanish language behind, who I am is gone. It is Spanish that binds me to my family's country. Spanish makes the ocean between here and there, disappear.
It will feel like loss to not have the sound of Spanish around me. It will take from my heart the way my father's death, my mother's, and my abuela's, did.
This year, the reaction to the sound of Spanish in this country has turned darker. It has moved in the direction of double takes, disapproval, unasked questions, spoken out loud assumptions. The clear disgust at not hearing English. Some shout out their demand, English! English!
I can't be without determination. I can't feel defeat. I can't feel despair. I can only commit to not be ashamed of speaking Spanish. I won't be made to feel inferior or judged because of it. It is the language that rings truer for me than English.
If I lose my Spanish, I lose my country.
And that may be the goal of the ugliness that is spreading across our nation.
We can't lie about what we feel in our hearts. Our language is more than what we speak with our tongues. It's what we say from our souls. And I will forever have Spanish at the core, as the heat and the spark, as the bridge across the distance of where I came from.
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