by Deborah Juarez
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in We’Ced Youth Magazine Issue #2
[dropcap]“We are in America!”[/dropcap] That is what I would typically think whenever my family would try to introduce me to my Mexican culture.
I have gotten used to not being in touch with my roots and not speaking Spanish in my home. It has been eleven years since I spoke a complete sentence in Spanish. In the past when I have tried to speak it, I’ve used English words to cover up the word I didn’t know in Spanish. This is not the worst part; losing touch with my culture has caused me to distance myself from my family in Mexico, my cousins and tias, because of my impaired ability to communicate. I also feel like my personal individuality has suffered because I have conformed to an “American” identity and left my Mexican self behind, in the dust.
Spanish was my first language. Till the age of 6, I wouldn’t just speak, read and write in Spanish, I would breathe it. However, things changed when I moved to Merced at the age of 7. The school noticed that I had trouble reading and writing in English. Sometimes, I would get both the languages mixed up so schools here put me in programs like Read 180 and ELD (English Learning Development). Read 180 lasted till I was in third grade and ELD till the fifth grade. However, I was not done being tested on my language skills.
[pullquote_left]Spanish was my first language. Till the age of 6, I wouldn’t just speak, read and write in Spanish, I would breathe it. However, things changed when I moved to Merced at the age of 7. [/pullquote_left]
I remember being tested in the sixth grade by the administration; they took me out of class and asked me to read a story as fast as I could. I never knew what that was about but I thought that it was normal and it happened to everyone else. The more I learned English the less and less I could communicate with my parents. I was losing the ability to communicate with my parents.
Even though we were living in Merced where there is a big presence of Mexican culture and people, I was losing the Mexican heritage in me.
In Merced and surrounding areas, Hmong culture is also very present. For Hmong people it is very important to stay in touch with their culture because, according to Pos Moua, a Hmong and English teacher at Merced High, “Hmong people want to belong to a homeland.” Mr. Moua also explained that, for a long time, the Hmong have been a people without a land. They have always been looking for a home, have always wanted to call a place their own. For many, they have that in America. For Hmong people respect and family are very important values. Pos Moua keeps the culture alive by teaching his children respect because respect plays a big part of Hmong culture.