My husband, Jack and I often seek out tiny taquerias. We love to walk into a restaurant to find little or no English on the menu and no Anglos seated at tables.
In search of authentic posole the other day at lunchtime, we examined a hand written menu tacked to a bright orange wall festooned with amateur paintings of rather square women gathering flowers in a mountain ringed desert. You know the scene.
The cook came out of the kitchen and greeted us in heavily accented English. Jack ordered tamales for himself and a small bowl of posole for me.
Four or five construction workers crammed into a booth behind me chattered to each other in Spanish until the cook delivered fragrant, streaming plates and bowls of food to their table.
“Why don’t you ever use your Spanish” Jack asked me.
I studied the menu on the wall behind him and realized I could decipher most of it.
My Family lived in a border town in Arizona when I was 13 years old. I took Spanish class at school with every other non-speaker; it was a very small class.
Now, I might be able to count to ten. I can ask for a beer, the restroom and a pencil.
The only Spanish I can speak with relative fluency is likely to get me thrown into the street, punched or otherwise justifiably assaulted.
The only complete sentence that rolls easily off my tongue is: “Shut up, ass-hair!”
Or I can replace the adjective for any number of equally insulting labels.
So, Jack, you really don’t want me to use my Spanish.
Remember I was 13 when I lived in Nogales, surrounded by other 13 year-old Spanish speakers. Therefore, I learned the curse words first, and those are just about the only Spanish words still available in my lil’ broken brain.