The increasing number of Spanish speakers here in America is not a new phenomenon. It is the second most spoken language in the country with a 200% increase in number of speakers since the early 80’s. Relatives working in medical facilities told me that the older generation of Latino immigrants only spoke Spanish at home which obligated the next generation to learn it.
I find the case of Spanish here interesting because other immigrant languages does not share its success. I have relatives whose children could barely speak Tagalog. Some could speak a smattering of it but far from fluent—I wouldn’t leave them alone in Manila for one second. When they mispronounce Tagalog or Bisaya, they’re applauded for it—that’s cute but a native Bisayan‘s heavy accented Tagalog back home is funny and stupid! Wrong, of course, but we have this bias to this day. I know this because I have Bisayan parents.
I’m an admirer of the Filipino generation that fought to retain Spanish as language in the Philippines. Some believes that these men were on the wrong side of the history—fighting a losing battle. It was an important political and cultural struggle that is forgotten now. The problem was they were up against a big machine—the new American public school system. But interesting is that Spanish usage actually increased during the early American years. What’s given is that the Americans would not help spread it—they even placed measures to limit its use but they never banned it completely. What ultimately ended Spanish was when those who spoke it abandoned it.
How often do you hear Filipinos tell stories how their grandparents gracefully spoke Spanish and yet Filipinos of today accepts that Spanish was never used as a language. A Spanish speaking congressman from Parañaque in an interview last year said that he considers it a failure on his end that he did not taught his children the language. It was this generation that abandoned the language for reasons they alone knows.
The writer, Liz Medina, scolded a Spanish speaking Filipino (who considers Spanish immaterial to present day Filipinos) in a forum with these words, “Spanish has been irrelevant for the Filipinos, we have been taught that it is irrelevant — as you yourselves, who should be the first to debunk this fallacy, as “tisoys” should have done, but have perhaps wanted to keep it a language for the kitchen and the family gatherings, but have not bothered to cultivate it in order to write in it and defend it, as many of your great-grandparents did while they knew that it was inevitable, that their own descendants would turn their backs on Spanish and embrace English, nay, even aspire to become estadounidenses.”
And I couldn’t agree more.
We have to remember that in Mexico, Spanish was not even the official language before its independence. It happened after the Spaniards left. Our first republic did the same in Malolos. Only those who appreciated its historical and practical value fought for it in the early 1900’s—all the rest was willing to let go of the past and start over anew with English.
I wanted to cook Filipino dishes to impress my relatives here—I was told to go to the Asian section to look for spices. I found almost everything I needed but the ones I could not, I found in the Hispanic section. While I already know that adobo for Latinos here is a kind of sauce I could not help myself but take pictures of the numerous ready made bottles and cans of chili-based Mexican adobo. It does not share any similarity with our adobo except its name.
Not far from where we are is a local carneceria—a Hispanic meat shop. Here you can buy good meat variety. They remind me of our local meat stalls back home. Not too long ago, a friend who had visited Mexico said to me that their local markets reminded him so much of our frenzied palengke. I told him that it should, aside from the typical tiendas, the name palenque is Mexican. Palenque they say is a precolonial Mexican word that refers to a fair or some kind of gathering. How we ended up using it instead of the Spanish mercado is a mystery.
Before I left for the US I met up with my friend, Pio Andrade, a historian who studied imported plants from Mexico. He reminded me of the crops that averted famine in the Visayas like maize and camote. How araro, a simple wooden plow, revolutionized the planting of rice. How so many of our medicial plantswere brought here by the Friars.
But these exchanges are two way. To this day there are Mexicans who drink tuba, or palm wine. Thanks to our sailors who brought their alcohol with them to Acapulco.