On Recovering My Mother Tongue: Speaking Spanish from the Bronx to México

During the first five years of my life, I grew up speaking both English and Spanish with my Puerto Rican family in the Bronx. Both languages reflected the kaleidoscope of my life at the time: I could switch easily from speaking English while romping around Randalls Island and the Williamsbridge playground to speaking Spanish while dancing salsa and merengue at my grandmother’s house in Parkchester.

Once we moved from the Bronx to Long Island in the early eighties, however, a critical shift happened. I was no longer in a community where Spanish was commonly spoken and on top of that, racist school counselors “advised” my mother not to speak Spanish to my brothers and me, in case it might “confuse” us. Respectful of school authorities, my mother obliged this narrow and misinformed demand.

This shift marked the beginning of being robbed of my mother tongue. I have been on a search to recapture it ever since. Continue reading

Summer of Feminista: Finding My Latina Feminism

Want to know the story of how I became a feminist?

Fellow feminist Latina blogger at Viva La Feminista, Veronica Arreola, is hosting an amazing series of guest posts this summer by Latinas and their relationship to feminism.  I answered Veronica’s call for submissions as an opportunity to share the story that changed my entire life.  Here’s an excerpt from my guest post titled Finding My Latina Feminism:

If it weren’t for some Irish white guy, I never would have become a feminist.

When I read James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man my senior year in high school, it changed my entire life.  Never before had I read a novel that spoke to me with such intensity.

The main character, Stephen Dedalus, was repeatedly teased and picked on the playground.  I was teased and picked on the playground with names like spic and nigger.

Here was a boy who wrote poetry hidden underneath the covers. I wrote poetry with big words that no one in my family understood.

Here was a boy who questioned the Catholic Church and went off to college to proclaim non serviam, or “I will not serve” the church, and instead became an artist, a writer, and a thinker. At 18, I also questioned the Catholic Church and went off to Smith to proclaim my own destiny as a queer feminist writer and thinker.

But while I read Joyce, I kept asking: Why isn’t this character a Puerto Rican girl living on Long Island via the Bronx in 1993? And why haven’t I ever read a book with a Latina protagonist who shares my story?

Read the rest of my post here and if you’re a fellow Latina feminist, consider participating!