This post was inspired by a blogging challenge to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month by writing on various topics for 30 days and elaborating on what it means to be Hispanic or Latino.
This is a tough one. As a US-born Puerto Rican, I myself am not fluent in Spanish. I’ve grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years and have a way better command of it than I ever have before, but I still wouldn’t call myself fluent. The fact is, many, many Puerto Ricans I know aren’t fluent in Spanish. Hell, many Latinos in general who were born and/or raised in the states don’t. I think we should all strive to learn and perfect our Spanish, but I don’t think it should be the only, or even the primary, marker of our identity.
It’s complicated, though, and I realize that. I can say with all honesty that, while I don’t expect every Latino or Puerto Rican I meet to have a command of Spanish, I usually do hope for it. I can also tell you that when I found out San Antonio mayor, and DNC keynote speaker, Julian Castro wasn’t fluent in Spanish I was more than a little disappointed. He’d used several words/phrases in Spanish during his speech and finding out he wasn’t really a Spanish speaker…was a shock to me.
In the years before I threw myself into learning Spanish, I held onto what I knew of Puerto Rican history and culture. That’s what linked me to my Puerto Rican/Latino identity. I think, even if we don’t all speak Spanish (and I think we should) we should at least all have a grasp of the history of our Latino roots.
So no, I don’t think that if you don’t think Spanish you shouldn’t identity as Latino. I think that’s a limited (and limiting) view of what it means to be Latino in this country.
What do you think? Don’t forget to take the poll!