Summary and Response to "Se Habla Espagnol"

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Assignment 1.1: Summary and Personal Response
“Spanish-challenged and pura Latina”(p. 61) is the final, but most important statement written at the conclusion of “Se Habla Espanol,” written by Tanya Barrientos (2011). This is a powerful memoir in which she shares her childhood experiences of self-hatred and the consequences of failing to identify with her own culture. Mrs. Barrientos is of Guatemalan descent, but she is unable to speak her native tongue, Spanish. Her inability is a result of her parent’s decision to speak only English in the home with the sole purpose of ensuring that their children would be fully immersed in American culture, which would provide them with a better chance to be successful (p. 57).

As a result of her parent’s decision, Tanya Barrientos(2011) explains in a somber tone how she rejected her cultural identity because she wanted to fit in with her new fellow Americans. She paints a portrait of how Americans during that time were not culturally tolerant, and expected those who entered America to leave their culture at the border. Thus, she felt that being a “Mexican” had a negative connotation. She states, “To me, speaking Spanish translated into being poor. It meant waiting tables and cleaning hotel rooms” (p. 57). Thus, she took pride in not being able to speak her native tongue; and, furthermore, she took pride in her American peers saying that she did not seem Mexican. The authors states that comments such as those “made me feel superior. It made me feel American. It made me feel white” (p. 58). Once her father realized how Barrientos felt about her native culture, he sought to rectify her feelings by sending her to Mexico City. He told her that living there would allow her to see what Mexican culture had to offer. “That way when anybody calls you Mexican, you will hold your head up” (Barrientos, 2011, p 59). His plan worked, and now Mrs. Barrientos reveals in an enlightening tone that she has spent the...
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