Losing Heritage

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Elicia Moreno was confused and embarrassed, a sophomore at SHS, when she was asked by a teacher, during Spanish class, what a word in Spanish meant. When Moreno couldn’t respond to the question, one of the students shouted out, “You’re Mexican! You should know this!”

Later, when Moreno told them that she didn’t speak Spanish, the student said “Fake Mexican!”

“I’m kinda sad because it’s really not my fault that I was really never taught Spanish,” Moreno said. “It’s just how I grew up, but I am in Spanish, so I’m learning. I’m trying my best.”

Moreno, like many other Latinos, has been judged and criticized for not knowing how to speak Spanish. Moreno’s dad is from Mexico and her mom is from Indiana. Moreno says she wasn’t really  taught by her parents, so she now has taken four years of Spanish and has been wanting to improve.

In 7th grade, Moreno decided that she wanted to take Spanish courses at school. Moreno didn’t take them because of what others had said about her not knowing the language, but to have a deeper connection with her Latino roots and culture.

Barbara Estrada, Moreno’s mom,  regrets not teaching her daughter Spanish. Estrada says that she didn’t teach it to her other children as well because Moreno’s father didn’t want them to know what he said about them to other people. She believes that it’s important to learn the language and to be bilingual because of the many opportunities the skill can offer.

“I regret not teaching her,” Estrada said. “Her dad didn’t want none of them to know Spanish because he didn’t want them to know his language.”
 There are other Latinos, like sophomore Luis Garcia, who  speaks Spanish fluently, that also believe that being bilingual could bring many opportunities. According to Garcia, being bilingual can lead to better jobs, higher pay rates and more understanding of other cultures and traditions.

Garcia knows that there are many Latinos in the United States who struggle with the same situation, like not knowing how to speak Spanish fluently. He  knows that there are many of them trying to connect and understand their culture but he believes that language is the most important factor to learn about first.

“ I feel like one way to understand a culture is through the language,” Garcia said. “That’s how you gotta start off.”

Prior to teaching English as a second language for 10 years and working at La Plaza, a non-profit organization that helps Latino communities in Indianapolis, Heidi Poe says that she has seen a trend of non-Spanish speaking Latinos in the United States,especially in families that have several children.

According to Poe, usually the oldest child of those families is sent to school and is taught English, but when the younger siblings are sent, the oldest, by then, doesn’t know Spanish anymore. The children then lose the connection they had with their families, and it becomes harder for them to communicate with their parents.

Poe also did a research with Purdue University about the same topic and says that she had talked to about 80 Latino families. Poe  asked the families why their children didn’t want to speak Spanish anymore.  The answer she received the most was that they had tried to teach Spanish to their children, but when they enrolled in school, the children didn’t want to learn it anymore because of  the new environment and culture they were experiencing.

“I can’t personally imagine not being able to talk to my family because of language,” Poe said. “It makes me really sad to know that that happens and that there are kids that only know certain words in Spanish…”

Poe believes that there should be more non-Spanish-speaking Latino children enrolled in schools where they have immersion programs. Due to what she has noticed by working in different types of schools over the years, Poe thinks that it would help those like Moreno learn more about their culture and speak Spanish fluently at a earlier age.

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