The Mestizo Tongue

It’s a misconception pensar
que there existe an homogenized Spanglish

***

No hace mucho, I saw a TV commercial on primer time at a major network. A Latino father was at the driver’s seat of a hybrid. His 8-year-old hijo was in the back.

“Papá, what’s a hybrid?”

“A car that uses gas and electricity as fuel, m’ijo.”

“Do you like it”?

“It’s good for the future.”

“Like your switching from Spanish to English, Papá.”

“Sí, m’ijo. that is good for the future, too.”

Spanglish, the ad suggested, is an efficient survival item: it makes you futurista!

Me encanta la idea but I want to take it a step further. Think of it from this perspective. We Latinos al norte del Río Bravo are not a racial minority. Somos white and black and yellow. Nor are we a religious group. Hay católicos, protestantes, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and agnósticos. A national community? No, para nada. The gamut of backgrounds includes mexicanos, boricuas, ticos, nicas, and gachupines.

Sí, we come in all flavors. And in all sounds, también. Hay Latinos who speak one language: español or English. Hay Latinos who are multilinguals: English and Spanish and maybe other tongues as well.

And then, there are Spanglish speakers. They might be monolingual: Spanglish y nada más. Or bilingual: Spanglish and español, or Spanglish and inglés. Plus, there might be trilingual Latinos: español, English, and Spanglish.

What defines Spanglish is su impureza. It’s unstable, elastic, en constante movimiento. It exists through cross-fertilization.

Hay more than 45 million Latinos en los Estados Unidos. No matter how you see it, the number is astronomical: Canada tiene a bit over 33 million; El Salvador, around 7 million.

It’s a misconception pensar que there existe an homogenized Spanglish. In truth, hay muchas variaciones: Cubonics, Dominicanish, Nuyorrican, Pachuco, Tex-Mex, etc. But la radio, la TV, and the Internet are shaping a middle ground: el Spanglish standard.

Spanglish-parlantes are code-switchers. The act—and art—of mixing Spanish and English is an essential parte de nuestra conversation. We switch, therefore we are.

Además, we Spanglish speakers engage in simultaneous translation: pensamos in una langua but hablamos en la otra. And we are manufacturers of previously non-existent terms. For instance, wáchale, carnal! Or: bajate a el baismen y checa el boiler! One more: no pierdas el focus porque ay viene la migra!

Spanglish es spoken por todo tipo de gente: gordos and thin, young and viejos, hombres and women, newly-arrived y ciudadanos de este país desde hace décadas. How many, en total? Muchísimos, and not only Latinos. En Manhattan, I often eat en un restaurante chino-cubano donde el Spanglish is la lengua franca. Arroz con beans and carne asada.

However, it would be un error—un grave error—to think of Spanglish only as a vehículo de comunicación. It is el anuncio de algo nuevo: a new mestizo is being born right before our eyes.

The diccionario says that mestizo es “a person of mixed racial ancestry, especially European and aboriginal.” Well, reemplace la palabra racial por linguistic but especially por cultural and what do you get?  Una nueva civilización, at once gringos e hispanos, yet neither one ni el otro.

Yes, en los Estados Unidos, in the last 150 years, a new civilización mestiza está gestándose. We are the latest wave of immigrants to Gringolandia but also an extremidad de América Latina in the land of Abraham Lincoln.

Some specialists believe Spanglish is a middle-step in the process of acquisition of English as the lengua dominante. Others disagree, announcing that it has already prolongued its life for too long para ser algo temporal. What’s your opinion, vato?

Unquestionably, Spanglish used to be looked down as a sign of primitivismo in the fifties. Pero en este país, low cultures are alluring. Tienen la tendency to become un magnet, which, eventualmente, las convierte in a hot item. Hoy el Spanglish es coolísimo! O no, loco? It has been abrazado por politicos, intelectuales and corporations, let alone por las masas.

Órale pues! Spanglish is más que una lengua—it’s an estado mental!

The Mestizo Tongue
It’s a misconception pensar que there existe an homogenized Spanglish.

No hace mucho, I saw a TV commercial on primer time at a major network. A Latino father was at the driver’s seat of a hybrid. His 8-year-old hijo was in the back.

“Papá, what’s a hybrid?”
“A car that uses gas and electricity as fuel, m’ijo.”
“Do you like it”?
“It’s good for the future.”
“Like your switching from Spanish to English, Papá.”
“Sí, m’ijo. that is good for the future, too.”
Spanglish, the ad suggested, is an efficient survival item: it makes you futurista!

Me encanta la idea but I want to take it a step further. think of it from this perspective. We Latinos al norte del Río Bravo are not a racial minority. Somos white and black and yellow. Nor are we a religious group. Hay católicos, protestantes, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and agnósticos. A national community? No, para nada. The gamut of backgrounds includes mexicanos, boricuas, ticos, nicas, and gachupines.

Sí, we come in all flavors. And in all sounds, también. Hay Latinos who speak one language: español or English. Hay Latinos who are multilinguals: English and Spanish and maybe other tongues as well.

And then, there are Spanglish speakers. They might be monolingual: Spanglish y nada más. Or bilingual: Spanglish and español, or Spanglish and inglés. Plus, there might be trilingual Latinos: español, English, and Spanglish.

What defines Spanglish is su impureza. It’s unstable, elastic, en constante movimiento. It exists through cross-fertilization.

Hay more than 45 million Latinos en los Estados Unidos. No matter how you see it, the number is astronomical: Canada tiene a bit over 33 million; El Salvador, around 7 million.

It’s a misconception pensar que there existe an homogenized Spanglish. In truth, hay muchas variaciones: Cubonics, Dominicanish, Nuyorrican, Pachuco, Tex-Mex, etc. But la radio, la TV, and the Internet are shaping a middle ground: el Spanglish standard.

Spanglish-parlantes are code-switchers. The act—and art—of mixing Spanish and English is an essential parte de nuestra conversation. We switch, therefore we are.

Además, we Spanglish speakers engage in simultaneous translation: pensamos in una langua but hablamos en la otra. And we are manufacturers of previously non-existent terms. For instance, wáchale, carnal! Or: bajate a el baismen y checa el boiler! One more: no pierdas el focus porque ay viene la migra!

Spanglish es spoken por todo tipo de gente: gordos and thin, young and viejos, hombres and women, newly-arrived y ciudadanos de este país desde hace décadas. How many, en total? Muchísimos, and not only Latinos. En Manhattan, I often eat en un restaurante chino-cubano donde el Spanglish is la lengua franca. Arroz con beans and carne asada.

However, it would be un error—un grave error—to think of Spanglish only as a vehículo de comunicación. It is el anuncio de algo nuevo: a new mestizo is being born right before our eyes.

The diccionario says that mestizo es “a person of mixed racial ancestry, especially European and aboriginal.” Well, reemplace la palabra racial por linguistic but especially por cultural and what do you get? Una nueva civilización, at once gringos e hispanos, yet neither one ni el otro.

Yes, en los Estados Unidos, in the last 150 years, a new civilización mestiza está gestándose. We are the latest wave of immigrants to Gringolandia but also an extremidad de América Latina in the land of Abraham Lincoln.

Some specialists believe Spanglish is a middle-step in the process of acquisition of English as the lengua dominante. Others disagree, announcing that it has already prolongues its life for too long para ser algo temporal. What’s your opinion, vato?

Unquestionably, Spanglish used to be looked down as a sign of primitivismo in the fifties. Pero en este país, low cultures are alluring. Tienen la tendency to become un magnet, which, eventualmente, las convierte in a hot item. Hoy el Spanglish es coolísimo! O no, loco? It has been abrazado por politicos, intelectuales and corporations, let alone por las masas.

Órale pues! Spanglish is más que una lengua—it’s an estado mental!

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. uberVU - social comments

Los comentarios están cerrados.