Monday, June 13, 2011

A Peek Inside Myself...

Got this image from

Yesterday was blog-hop day for me, and I have entered into a bilingual world that is both a joy and makes me uncomfortable at the same time. You see, I grew up in a Spanish environment, but did not fit the usual Puerto Rican image, nor follow the same habits. I have been shunned by my own "people". So, the result is being an adult insecure with a language that I love. Though I have been known to "get by" to communicate in Spanish, I have taken on Italian as substitute because I now live in Italy and am married to an Italian; but I miss that part of my heritage. My kids are actually the ones encouraging me to get past my insecurities. They do pretty well in English and Italian, but they, especially my oldest, LOVE to learn whatever they can in Spanish. It is allowing me to refresh my memory and just share, knowing that they have no judgements, no preconceived ideas, and they are open little, hungry books.

It is nice to know that being multi-cultured DOES have a place. Multicultured people are SO interesting, and have so much to share on things they have learned along the way, experiences they have had, places they have visited, etc... I love that I grew up on the East Coast of the States as I have a love for the big melting pot of cultures. I grew up with so many different people, and we managed to get along, make memories, and share with each other. I think, more than art classes, karate classes, dance classes, etc... all of these GOOD things, I value most the life class of multi-language living. That is where one can be well- rounded and learn so much. ON SO MANY SUBJECTS. I hope that makes sense.

Now, living in Southern Italy presents me with a very different challenge, how to fit in being one of the different ones. Over these last 7 1/2 years that I have lived here, there has been an influx of immigrants from Romania, Albania, China, Morroco, Africa, etc... I am glad only because this multiculturalism is something I have missed. Living in an area that has been led by traditions carried on from one generation to another, for what seems like forever, is interesting, and yes, beautiful to some degree, but... coming in from the outside can be a harsh step with people unused to change, different ideas, and even a bit of intolerance for what has not always been a part of their lives or families over their history, including those different foods. (Can I get a YAY for Chinese and Mexican foods?!?! Yum!!)

So.. Moving on... When my kids speak English and Italian, they switch between both, often unintentionally, even within one sentence. They can explain things in English, but if an argument, for example arises, it quickly goes to Italian. Funny, I like that in them. I actually encourage that in them, while also encouraging them to remember the way they need to say something in the other language not being spoken in that moment. They are learning to communicate in two languages. What is not to like about that?

But... I am not so merciful with myself. I grew up with Spanish around me,but was not considered truly Puerto Rican because I did not go to PR for vacation, did not 100% fluently speak the language, and I got a lot of flack from other fluent speakers who described the true PR Latina as one wearing tight, bright clothes, hair slicked back, natural tan, knew how to dance the traditional dances, and knew her language perfectly. Well, I am light skinned, was never "taught" Spanish from my parents, I just picked up whatever I could, and am modest in what I wear. I DO occasionally wear the slicked back pony tail; though, my curls are not the tight, kinky kind. :-) I grew up with a lot of insecurities as I claimed to be Puerto Rican but had "little" to prove for it; but, as I read what other blogs have to say about Spanglish and mixing, I find that I am RELIEVED!!!

Yesterday my 5 year old daughter, out of the blue, said "Muchas Gracias" (probably from watching Dora the Explorer, For more on this show in English and Spanish, click Here and Here) after I did something for her. My husband and I just looked at each other. I leaned over and said. "Te gustas hablar en espanol?" (Do you like to speak in Spanish?)SHE SHOOK HER HEAD "YES". My husband still does not think she really understood what I said. My kids' interest in my own language is encouraging me to get back to using what I know, and letting that develop a love for the language, so that maybe they will study it on their own some day.

I have lived life being very sensitive to the criticisms against Spanglish, which was often spoken in my PR home and family. Part of that was due to things I heard as a kid from other Spanish speakers, critical Spanish teachers, or monolinguals, that Spanglish was low, used by the uneducated... This caution and insecurity has kept me from sharing this part of myself with my kids. I have focused mostly on English and Italian with them as they are the two most practical languages they need to know as we live in Italy, and all of my family is in the States and speak English. Now, I see that my kids really love the idea of learning Spanish, and I am really seeing the value of that. I am seeing that my "all or nothing" approach to sharing MY heritage with my kids is being unfair to them and also to myself. I am inching past my own ingrown insecurities so that I can share this part of me with them. It is an interesting development, and I am truly glad for it!!

I suppose that my lack of knowledge for my own language is similar to this idea. Not exact, but it is my example. I don't know all the rules of playing basket ball, but I CAN teach my kids to throw and make a basket. I can teach them some vocabulary: Foul, walk, dribble, pivot, etc... I think that we just need to take each opportunity we have to let our kids learn whatever they can. Even if it is just pieces, it is better than nothing, as it can be just what is needed to build interest to learn more. No es mi culpa (It is not my fault) that I did not grow up ON the island. I still know about gandules, Spanish rice, platanos, frijoles, pasteles, pan dolce, coquitos, and lots of other things. That is still part of my heritage, and so it is also a part of my kids' heritage.

In my blog hopping, I have been blessed to read about several others just encouraging us to utilize what we know to teach our kids. I LOVE that! I am going to do it!! My kids will be happy, and I am sure it will bring back lots of memories that I can also share with my kids: about my Abuela who has since passed away, about going to a Spanish church from birth to nine years old, about lots of things.

What is wrong with me being proud of my heritage, even if it mixes languages? Nothing... it speaks of a people determined to leave what they new to make a better life (my great grandparents from Spanish Islands, my grandparents from PR) for their family. It speaks of history of hard work to pass on something better to children (my parents) and grandchildren (me, my siblings, and cousins). It is real life. I value good, true, well-spoken language as much as the next person, but... with all the culture switching, intermarriages, and all, it sure makes things easier to know that it is okay to say. "Hola, Come va?, I am well"

Thank you to each of you who have shared your hearts on your blogs and shared what you had to say with me and others. Your encouragement may sometimes seem like it is making no impact, but I tell you, it has touched my heart. I needed to know it is OKAY to not be perfect, to just do my best, and to share what I can and let my kids' natural curiosity and interest lead them. I needed to know that I am not alone in this bilingual journey. I am just "getting to know you", and I am so grateful for you.

Blessings from my heart,

Here are some links that are related in one way or another to what I myself shared above. Hope you enjoy these reads and each perspective into the life of other bilinguals.


  1. I love this idea of sharing the bits of knowledge that we do have - your example of basket ball is perfect.

  2. Thanks so much for stopping by!! It is nice to hear from you. Have a great day! :-)