Friday, May 13, 2005

Aqui We No Blog en Espanish or the Curse of the Nuyorican

Yesterday I was interviewed for an article on Latino bloggers for a local newspaper.
I was asked if I ever blog in Spanish and why or why not? Deep down inside I've dreamt of blogging in Espanol. I've had fantasies about having a two column blog with one part in English and the other part in Spanish but the curse of the Nuyorican won't let me. As it is , it's only been within the past year that I've performed in Spanish. When I write, my poetry, a story, anything, it comes out in English first then it gets translated (usually with help from la Fea). It's not that my Spanish is horrible , it's that I am uncomfortable with it. I worry about my accent. When I first arrived in Chile people either thought I was a gringa by the way I spoke Spanish or they thought I was from the Caribbean. By the time I left Chile most people assumed I was from there. When I returned to New York everyone thought I was Chilean. Now when I speak Spanish most people think I'm from somewhere in South America. Unless I am performing in Spanish. I feel the words get stuck in my airway, ready to choke me. The same was when I did the interview in Spanish yesterday. The words danced around my tongue, refusing to sit still long enough for me to grasp them and force them through my lips.

I think a lot of it is a matter of practice. There was a time when I could be thrown in front of a television camera and roll my rrrrrrrrrs like no one's business for Spanish language news channels. The same went for Spanish language newspapers. I am sorely out of practice.

The curse of the Nuyorican however doesn't let my English off the hook. I will admit to having perfected my "white girl voice". It is the voice I used to answer the phones for three years at the investment banking firm I worked at. It is the voice I use when speaking to white people I don't know. My parents worked really hard to send me to schools to perfect it. But don't let the proper accentless English fool you. When I got up in front of my all girl Catholic school on the upper East Side of Manhattan to perform a Shakespeare monologue, I watched my mom shrink in her seat with every word that I projected onto East 68th Street. On the subway ride home she told me that I had never sounded so "spic" in my whole life. She didn't mean it in a nice way either. A white ex-boyfriend of mine is fascinated how I can be so articulate yet when I get angry a little Puerto Rican accent comes out along with a flood of curses and dichos in Spanish.

Articulate. That's what they say to me when they find out I'm Rican. They expect me to be grammatically challenged and stumble over my words. I have never ever heard someone say "she's so articulate" about a white person.

I feel like I can't win. Not with my identity. Not with the language I express that identity with. The curse of the Nuyorican.


Anonymous Heidi said...

You know what, I've heard the same exact thing. "wow, you are so articulate"or even better, "I was shocked to find out you're so smart." I always just thought that was because of being female. But hey, more and more I realize, race plays a part, everyday.

5/16/2005 12:38:00 PM  

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