When I think about the relationships I’ve created and the experiences I’ve had, I realize how vastly different my life would be without the role of the Spanish language and Mexican culture. If you know me well, you’ve heard me talk about Cory, a Mexican woman who helped take care of me as I grew up. My dad requested that Cory only talk to me in Spanish so that I could learn the language (props to dad on this one). So from ages 0 to about 8 or 9 years old, I felt just as comfortable speaking Spanish as I did English. The amazing thing about Cory is that she didn’t just help watch me when my mom was busy with my other two siblings’ activities: Cory took me in as a part of her family, and my family took her in as a part of ours. I adored (and still do) her so much that I would ask to have sleepovers at her house on the weekend. I would go over, and her husband Ricardo would have ginormous mangoes and Mexican candy waiting for me. I remember being about 5 years old and eating 3 large mangoes by myself. I think that was the point when Cory decided I was one of her own ☺. I would go to Cory’s Hispanic church on Sundays and made amazing friends out of the children and adults there. I still have an incredible relationship with Cory and know I can count on her through thick and thin. Gracias, Cory, por compartir vuestra cultura conmigo y por dar forma a la persona que soy yo. (‘Thanks, Cory, for sharing your culture with me and shaping me into the person I am today.”)
I’ve also been super, super lucky to have made a best friend out of Fernanda. She and I met when we were 3 and a half years old at our pre-school. Fernanda and her parents are from Mexico, and Spanish is spoken frequently in the house. Among our friends, Fernanda is famous for having a world-class pantry. When I think about the place I feel most joyful and at peace, I immediately think of her pantry. (Some may say this is sad. I just say I have my priorities straight). Within her pantry, you can find bins and bins of Mexican candy. For those of you who haven’t had Mexican candy, first off I’m sorry, and also: Mexican candy is pretty different compared to candy from most cultures in that it typically has a lot of spice and more of a salty flavor. Anyways, when I go over to Fernanda’s house, it’s very common for us to speak in Spanish to one another, or at least for Auntie Cristina and Uncle José (Fernanda’s mom would get mad if she knew I called her Mrs. Gonzalez in this post) to speak in Spanish and for me to respond in English. I’ve been able to meet a lot of Fernanda’s family from Mexico and interact with them in Spanish and also to go out with her family friends from Mexico. In this way, I think being able to speak Spanish has allowed me, Fernanda, and her family to form a really special relationship- one that has molded and blessed me in too many ways to count. (Real shoutout to the Gonzalez family. Y’all are the real MVPs.)
This past weekend I was able to visit Fernanda in Paris where she is studying for the year. We are both working hard to achieve fluency, for me in Spanish and for her in French, so we talked a lot about our struggles and successes in doing so. What we both concluded is that the ability to speak other languages is one of the coolest things ever. Fernanda even said that if she could have one super power, it’d be fluency in all languages. Sometimes I think about how much easier life would be if everyone spoke the same language. But, then I think about all the creativity that went into the formation of the languages and how each language demonstrates the unique thinking of the people who created it and speak it. For example, in Spanish a person would say “tengo 21 anos,” which translates to “I have 21 years,” whereas in English a person would say “I am 21 years old.” Isn’t it crazy to think how each language can express the same idea in such a varied way? Instead of viewing age as a defining feature of whom a person is (I AM 21), perhaps Spanish speakers view age as something they merely possess (I HAVE 21 years). It’s super interesting that the language we speak can dictate the way we relate to things, i.e. age. When I think about being able to speak Spanish, first and foremost what comes to mind is how grateful I am for the relationships it has allowed me to form. This really all boils down to one person: Cory. Thank you for everything! My life and relationships would be a lot less interesting and fulfilling if it hadn’t been for you ☺.