I’m pretty sure that I’m Puerto Rican.
I can salsa-dance, I’m a good lover, and I have bad credit. I’m one Puerto Rican-flag car decal away from being a card-carrying member of the Ricky Martin community. However, I can’t speak a lick of Spanish. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but for a Latino living in America, it’s enough to make your fellow Latinos pelt you to death with Goya cans.
My childhood memories are that of being a chubby, absentminded kid surrounded by Spanish ladies who are convinced that I am the spawn of Satan for not being bilingual. When I was 15, a lady from my Kingdom Hall (I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness; that’s what they call their churches) presumptuously launched into a rapid-fire blah-blah-blah of Spanish. She eventually noticed my cross-eyed expression and realized that I didn’t understand what the fuck she was saying. She then proceeded to make a face that I can only describe as Gloria Estefan eating the filthy asshole of a small hedgehog. “Ugh, what a disgrace,” she said. A disgrace. A DISGRACE! She fucking called a 15-year-old kid a disgrace!
I was livid. I wanted to make a fucking skin dress out of this woman. I wanted to light her on fire and leave her looking like Kevin Spacey in Pay it Forward. Instead, I did what most 15-year-old kids in the 90s did to work out their angst. I went home, blasted Nirvana’s In Utero and beat my dick off to MTVs The Grind until I fell asleep. OK, so maybe she was right. I was a disgrace.
Thankfully, my teenage years have ended and with them, the right that some people think they have to give me shit for my linguistic shortcomings. Irate church ladies have been replaced by the occasional asshole on the street asking me if I “Epeeky Spanee” and then getting pissed at me when I tell them I don’t.
“You know what Hermano, you live in America. Why don’t you fucking learn to speak English, how about that! Then you can annoy people in a language they can understand!” One day that will come billowing from my mouth, and on that day I will get to see the most confused Hispanic since Guillermo Del Toro was ejected from an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.
Yes, I think that people who live in America should learn English. I don’t think that this viewpoint has to solely belong to xenophobic racists from south of the Mason-Dixon. I think, to a certain extent, that the “You’re in Amurica, Speak Amurikin’” crowd actually has a point. It takes some major cojones to live in a country where everyone speaks a language and not at least try to learn it. It’s even worse to expect other people to speak your language instead. And no, it doesn’t matter that we don’t have an official language. The truth is that I’m largely indifferent as to whether or not English is the official language of the US. Suprisingly, It’s one thing that Bill O’Reilly and I seem to have in common, as can be seen in this, the only video clip of him not being a condescending, gaping, demon’s asshole.
Don’t get me wrong—learning Spanish is most definitely on my bucket list. But if I moved to a Spanish-speaking country, that shit would go straight to the top of the list, right above “Redhead Midget Orgy.” As a person who only speaks one language, I know that the idea of learning a second one is extremely daunting, especially for someone that’s up in years. I’m just saying, please try. Give it a shot. Until then, if you want directions around New York City in any language but English or L337Speak, leave me the fuck alone or I will kick you in your spinal cord with my size-13 Converse and Christopher Reeve you faster than you can say, “La Bamba.”