Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bilingual benefits

By Lorena Aviles (Park City, IL)

Hay viene la blanquita.” There comes the white girl.
“Lorena? She is Chicana.”

After coming to the United States at the age of 8, I found that I had a dual identity. I was no longer perceived as just Mexican or American: I became the white girl and the Chicana.

Whenever I return to Mexico, my friends ask me to speak to them in English, and I do. I tell them something simple; they try to replicate the sounds of multiple letters intertwining with each other. When I return to Mexico to dance on the farms, I am forced to exhibit my “American side.”

Many times when I am in the United States, people confuse my ethnicity. Some claim that I look Indian. Others recognize me as Mexican American.

I am never just Lorena.

But today, as my group reported on the relocation of a local hospital, I was able to use my Spanish in order to find out about the neighborhood, the way Hispanic residents feel, and the needs of the community. I have always loved the way I roll my Rs. The sound that bursts out of my lips reminds me of my hometown back in Mexico. I have always treasured my ability to speak two languages, but today, the benefits of bilingualism proved to be vital.

As I walked around Witherspoon Street, I asked people for a second of their time; their eyes changed as they realized I spoke Spanish. Some walked away, claiming they had a bus to catch or a job to go to or something else they needed to take care of. Some stayed, answered my questions, and gladly expressed their opinions.

In the land of freedom, the land of immigrants, and the land of lucky chances, bilingualism is a wonderful tool and an identity shaper, a common trait and a form of assimilation.

My advice: rebel. Speak the language of your blood and of your land, of your heart and your mind. Speak
for yourself.

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