Romero, Simon. “Spanish Thrives in the U.S. Despite an English-Only Drive.” New York Times, 23 August 2017. Read the full article here.
In this August 23, 207 article from the New York Times, journalist Simon Romero examines the persistence of bilingual Spanish and English communities in the United States. Romero argues that even in a political climate that is increasingly hostile to non-English speakers and Latinos (whether immigrant and native-born), bilingualism and Spanish language cultural forms remain vibrant. Drawing on examples from businesses, advertisements, television, and music, Romero depicts a “vast laboratory showcasing the remarkable endurance of Spanish (Romero).” This continued cultural vibrancy is a result of many interrelated factors, including the deep historical roots of Spanish in the Southwestern U.S., the large numbers of Spanish language speakers worldwide, and the patterns of migration and return migration that bring native speakers to the U.S.
While the first part of Romero’s article examines dual-language communities where everything from signs at banks, restaurant menus, and laundromat instructions are posted in both Spanish and English, he quickly turns to discussing the growing number of places where fully-bilingual young people conduct their daily lives using both languages. Indeed Spanglish, whether people just pepper their conversations with phrases from one language and then the other, or switch from speaking Spanish with their abuelos to English at school, is more and more common.
Unlike many traditionalists who see this linguistic fluidity as degrading both Spanish and English, Romero depicts Spanglish as a new cultural form reflecting the hybrid cultural identities of its speakers. Among the proponents of Spanglish Romero quotes is Professor Ilan Stavans (who has published some very interesting graphic novels on the history of Spanish Jews in colonial New Mexico in addition to his work on Spanglish), who describes Spanglish as “a mestizo language” vibrant and reflecting the lived experiences of its millions of Speakers in the U.S. (Stavans, as quoted by Romero). Romero’s approach emphasizes cultural resistance in a time of political hostility.
I see many links between this article and our class themes. First, it reminds me of our discussions of Thomas Holloway, and the constantly-renewed historical links between Latin Americans and their diasporic communities in the U.S. It also reminds me of our discussions of Buissert’s Creolization in the Americas. The couple in Telemundo’s soap opera who switch effortlessly between English and Spanish as they drive to their appointment are certainly artistic representations of a modern way of expressing ideas and feelings in an evolving cultural context.