How Spanish Ends Up as Lipstick on Your Toothbrush
“My Spanish always asks why it’s being compared to food: spicy, hot, sizzle.” We’ve all been stereotyped by our Spanish. We have suffered the sting of embarrassment when our Spanish is not up to par. We also know the power of saying “I love you”…in Spanish. Poet Melissa Lozada-Oliva explores our relationship with Spanish — the frustrations and annoyances, the love and hate, our memories and history — and puts those feelings to a spoken beat in her gut-wrenching biographical poem, My Spanish. Watch the video above to see why Lozada-Oliva describes her Spanish as ‘an itchy phantom limb’ and how it ‘sits in the corner of a classroom, chews on a pencil, does not raise its hand’. *Snap, snap, snap*
We’ve seen time and time again, people in the U.S., minding their own business, continuously get disrespected for speaking Spanish. The audacity of someone telling you that you cannot do something like speaking your native language as if it’s illegal. Typically these verbal assaults by complete strangers happen in restaurants, on the street, at stores, but this latest occurrence happened to someone we’d never expect.
On July 17, 27-year-old Xiara Mercado, a member of the Air Force who is stationed in Hawaii, was wearing her uniform when a woman told her she shouldn’t speak Spanish.
Mercado shared the appalling ordeal in a Facebook post and described that she was waiting for a drink at Starbucks during her lunch break and began speaking on her cell phone in Spanish. She said she got off the phone once her drink was ready and walked outside.
Mercado writes, “I get tapped on the shoulder by this lady,” and the lady said to her, “you shouldn’t be speaking Spanish, that’s not what that uniform represents… It’s distasteful.”
The Puerto Rican native said that she was confused at first by the lady and her comment about being “distasteful.”
“I’m sorry ma’am, what’s distasteful?” Mercado asked the lady. “You speaking another language that does not represent America and that uniform you are wearing, that’s distasteful.”
Mercado said she collected her thoughts for a moment and responded to her by saying, “I’m sorry ma’am the only distasteful thing here is that you are clueless to your discrimination, please educate your self. Have a nice day.”
But the ordeal didn’t end there. Mercado writes that the lady spoke to her again, this time loudly and said: “I don’t know how you are allowed to wear that uniform.”
You would think Mercado would have lost her cool. We know we would have, but rather than lose her temper, Mercado responded to this racist woman by saying, “I wear it proudly.” She then walked away.
Mercado finished her Facebook post by writing, “I was more sad than mad but above all I am disgusted. Even though I wanted to say a lot more I have respect for people and the uniform I wear… That’s the best I could do in that situation. Someone told me I could have smiled and apologized, Ummm I’m sorry what!? If you don’t see what is wrong with my story you are part of the problem. #thisisamerica.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Her post has since been shared almost 50,000 times on Facebook.
People from all over the world have been sending her lots of support via social media. They tell her she handled the situation amazingly and that she should never apologize for speaking Spanish.
Vanessa Facio wrote to Mercado on Facebook, “You remind me of a woman who holds a very special place in my heart. When I saw your post, not only did I feel your disappointment and disrespect, but I also felt the warrior in you. Thank you for serving this country and raising an awareness for not only women but for all the warriors and giving those the courage to stand up for themselves.”
A couple of days after her initial post, Mercado was clearly surprised by the overwhelming amount of comments and response to her words.
She said that she didn’t write that to get praise. She also said not all of the comments were positive, she said some of them were also bad. Mercado also said that just like us, she too has seen in the headlines how people say offensive things to others but never thought it would happen to her. She said at the end of the day, it’s not about the Spanish language but more directly about discrimination.
Mercado added that people who live in a bubble and believe the armed forces are run by “straight, white, males” are very wrong.
Mercado wanted her followers to know that her post was more than about speaking Spanish but also about gender equality, the LGBTQ community, and identity. “That’s what I fight for,” she said.
So, it goes without saying that Spanish is a language totally worth learning. However, you don’t have to wait until high school Spanish classes to pick up the language. In fact, learning a language is easiest at a young age. Doing so has added benefits too. Learning a second language has been shown to increase problem-solving, creativity, test scores and a greater understanding of one’s native language.
It only makes sense to start them young but don’t take our word for it. There are tons of celebrities who also understand this advantage. As such, both native and non-native speakers are setting their kids up for a bilingual future by teaching them Spanish now. Here are some of the celebs who are fostering a love for Español in their kids.
1. Ali Wong
Instagram / @aliwong
Funny woman Ali Wong is best known for making us laugh with her comedy specials and Netflix original movie “Always Be My Maybe,” but she’s also a really cool mom. In this Instagram video, the comedian is shown reading a Lil’ Libros book about La Catrina to her little one. She even encourages her daughter to read along. We can’t help but approve of her technique.
2. Ryan Gosling & Eva Mendes
Instagram / @gosling.mendes
Celebrity couple Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes have two adorable little girls who they are teaching Spanish to. In May 2019, the actress appeared on “The Talk” and shared her experience teaching her daughters.
“We’re trying to teach the kids Spanish, and it’s harder than I thought because I speak Spanglish, and that’s what they’re picking up. It’s adorable, but it’s technically not a language.”
3. Salma Hayek
Instagram / @salmahayek
Not every native Spanish speaker decides to teach their children Spanish — especially if their spouse doesn’t speak the language. That hasn’t stopped Salma Hayek, though. The actress has shared in the past that her daughter, Valentina, knows three languages. Her husband is from France so their girl has grown up speaking French, Spanish and English.
4. Perez Hilton
Instagram / @hxrrykidd
Gossip guru, Perez Hilton is a dedicated father of one and is passing his Cuban heritage on to his son through speaking Spanish. Back in 2013, the internet personality shared with MAMAS LATINAS about his strict Spanish-only rule.
“I speak to him only in Spanish in the house, and so does abuela.”
Though she’s Latina, Jessica Alba isn’t a native speaker. Still, she recognizes the importance of learning the language. Back in 2008, she told LATINA that she was determined to learn so she could teach her kids.
“Hopefully I can pick it up because I want my kids to speak Spanish. I don’t even want them to speak English for maybe the first two to three years, until preschool.”
6. Hilaria Baldwin
Instagram / @hilariabaldwin
Alec Baldwin’s wife, Hilaria, was ready to teach their daughter Spanish before she was even talking. The Spanish-national told US Weekly all about her plans.
“I was on the phone with my nephew, who’s seven. He called me…and he asked me, ‘Is she going to speak Spanish?’ I said, ‘Yes, but you have to help because she’s going to grow up [in the US] probably so you have to help speak to her in Spanish.'”
For JLo, her kids learning Spanish was all about la cultura. She and ex-husband, Marc Anthony, made sure to teach their twins the language while they grew up. She explained this mentality during an interview with AMERICA READS SPANISH.
“[It’s] Very, very important. I want my kids not just to speak in Spanish but to know the culture of their parents. We come from a rich and vast culture and I want to educate my kids knowing their heritage.”
8. Christina Aguilera
Instagram / @xtina
Christina Aguilera is another Latina who understands the value of teaching her child Spanish. She shared with People that she intended for her son Max to learn the language as it is a part of their Latino culture and he is half Latino.
9. Roselyn Sánchez
Instagram / @sueltalasopatv
Actress and producer Roselyn Sánchez is a native Spanish speaker and has taught her daughter how to speak it as well. However, her husband, Eric Winter, doesn’t speak the language at all. This led to Sánchez and her daughter giving their favorite guy a few adorable lessons in Español.
10. Ricky Martin
Instagram / @ricky_martin
Pop sensation Ricky Martin helped usher in the Latin explosion of the early 2000s. His culture is obviously very important to the star and he’s shared that gift with his twin sons. In fact, the Puerto Rican dad and his kids only speak Spanish at home. English is only spoken by his boys at school
11. Gwyneth Paltrow
Instagram / @gwynethpaltrow
Goop-founder Gwyneth Paltrow is raising her kids to speak fluent Spanish. Son, Moses, and daughter, Apple, are encouraged to only speak Spanish to each other at home. This immersion therapy is one of the best methods for raising bilingual kids.
12. Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas
Instagram / @allegraabla
Though she is now grown, Stella Banderas was raised by her parents to be fluent in Spanish and English. Born in Spain, the young actress grew up shuttled between LA and her home country so being bilingual was especially helpful.
13. Zoe Saldana
Twitter / @MichaelStone64
For Afro-Latina Zoe Saldana, the choice to teach her kids Spanish was an easy one. In fact, according to Girls Talk Smack, she decided to before they were even born.
“Of course [our children] will speak the languages that we speak; my sisters and I grew up learning French and speaking English and Spanish, and because of that, we’re able to understand Italian and Portuguese. But I’m going to have to make a conscious effort to speak Spanish to my children, because I speak Spanglish.”
14. Tiny Harris
Instagram / @majorgirl
Wife to T.I. and mom to Heiress, Tiny Harris is working on making her daughter as well rounded as possible. In a January 2019 Instagram video, the mom recorded little Heiress practicing her Spanish. Harris’ hope is that she can help her daughter learn a second or third language.
15. David and Victoria Beckham
Instagram / @beckhamxfamilystyle
Back in 2003, David Beckham and family moved to Spain when he signed on with Real Madrid. The soccer star learned Spanish while playing with his team and taught his sons as well. This goes to show that necessity can be a useful motivation when learning a new language.
16. Matt Damon
Twitter / @enews
Though he is married to an Argentine woman, Matt Damon was a Spanish speaker long before they met. He learned Spanish through immersion as a teenager and also backpacked through Mexico and Guatemala. As such, he and his wife, Luciana Barroso, have raised their four daughters to speak Spanish as well.
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