¡Felicidades a María García!

¡Felicidades a María García de St. Edward’s University, nuestro Heritage Student Spotlight para el mes de abril! En sus propias palabras:

I was born in Mission, Texas and raised in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, which is where my family is from. My mother has a degree in chemistry from UDEM and my father has a degree in agricultural engineering from Tecnológico de Monterrey. I’m a junior at St. Edward’s University, currently working on my major in Political Science with a concentration in pre-law and international studies and my minor in Spanish. Spanish is my first language, I did not learn English until first grade thanks to my teacher, Mrs. Jackson, and the dozens of Junie B. Jones books that I was instructed to read out loud. Aside from the job interview advantage, I enjoy using my language to connect with other Spanish speakers. My dream is to become a civil rights attorney. Learning Spanish to reach a professional level of literacy felt necessary for me to accurately assist any Spanish speaking clients, because in law every word matters and I, as their attorney, should be able to translate and explain without missing a beat. I’ve benefited greatly from studying my heritage language. While I was fluent, I did not know grammar correctly, but most importantly it taught me to accept all Spanish speakers regardless of their dialect. This leads me to the advice I want to give to other Spanish heritage students and speakers.

As much as we might feel unwelcome in certain places, never let go of your language. The biggest lesson I learned from my Spanish minor was that not everyone’s immigrant parents or family had the opportunity to enrich the next generation of Spanish speakers, not because they did not like the language but rather because they were focused on assimilating. That was a wake up call for me because for many years my parents instilled the thought that people who spoke broken Spanish, or Latinos “con el nopal en la frente” who did not know Spanish were lazy individuals who hated their home country. So now my perspective on my identity has changed. 

I’m a privileged Latina. I already knew this of course, my parents had the privilege of attaining work visas and later mitigating their residency with the help of an attorney and traveling to other agencies that work faster (took about two years but it was still faster than usual). But what I didn’t consider privilege was my language. 

My parents did not need to assimilate because they never had to work in the US. My mother owns a laboratory equipment distributor, and my father has his ranch with Charbray cattle. Through the assistance of her US distributor she was able to file for a work visa for her and a spousal one for my father. We left Mexico for two primary reasons, balancing life between two countries was becoming too difficult to manage because my mother crossed the border every morning to take four kids to school, and the increasing violence and conflict between cartels, the federal police, and the US was beginning to scare my father about our safety.

This is all to say that I am a privileged Latina and I thank my parents everyday for the opportunities they granted us all while working in a different country. We left behind a lot of our customs like eating together and visiting my grandparents and great grandparents daily. But this sacrifice does not compare to the stories of people who had to leave and give absolutely everything to reach the US. No wonder they felt the pressure to leave their language too. So now that you’re here as a Spanish heritage student, hold on to your language and don’t let anyone tell you that here they speak English, because they don’t just speak English. Use your language at home, teach it to your children, your partners, share the wonder that is Spanish or any heritage language for that matter because that language is you. No matter how far I end up, I still catch myself saying “no manches” or listening to cumbia or scouring Apple Maps to find a chamoyada. Mexico will forever be a part of me.

On behalf of all Spanish speaking first generation Mexican-Americans, I’m sorry if your family had to leave their language behind, and I’m sorry if anyone ever criticized you for a decision you did not make. Remember, it’s never too late to learn or return to your roots. Mexico is still here, alive and vibrant, and it’s waiting for you too!

Si usted es instructor/a de español como lengua de herencia, y quiere nominar a un estudiante, favor de entregar una solicitud a nuestro sitio web.