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29 Jun 2016

Ask a Mexican: Why Don't Children of Mexican Immigrants Speak Spanish?

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Dear Mexican: Why do SO many chamacos of this generation. who are Mexican, refuse to learn Spanish and/or speak it? What’s the big deal? Are they THAT embarrassed of their native tongue because they’ve been so Americanized, or what? It’s been bugging me for years!

I’m Mexican-born and raised in San Diego, and grew up quite differently from most Mexican kids, I guess, but I never backed down to speak, read, write and learn Spanish. Osea, que conejos con está generación?!

Cachanillo, ¿Y Que?

Dear Pocho: Sure, the Pew Hispanic Center and other survey-happy think tanks publish study after study showing how quickly children of Mexican immigrants learn English, and how fast they begin to favor that idioma instead of habla. But the fact remains that it’s more acceptable than ever for people to speak Spanish, especially given that we’re in the end stage of Reconquista. And still, Mexico kids end up becoming English-dominant, as they always have in post-World War I America.

Why? Because despite what Univisión wants you to believe, English is how you win in los Estados Unidos—and win, we must. Besides, what’s wrong if Mexican kids lose the ability to speak Spanish? Sure, being bilingual is great, but a lack of Spanish doesn’t somehow make you less Mexican—just ask Cuauhtémoc.

Dear Mexican: When I was a small child of a poor farm family in Oklahoma, we started to have visits from an extended family of about a dozen persons who were following the harvest work from the border northward. They would stop again on their way south when harvest was over. Our farm was on a river, and our cabin had lots of shade and space for them to set up their tent and make the campfire. My mother always welcomed them, and we nine children were delighted to find these friendly brown children to play with. Mama would give them corn, tomatoes and sweet potatoes from our garden. They, in turn, would show my mother how to make flat bread on the cooking fire, and how to use very hot peppers in cooking.

I regret that the way to cook that flat bread was not passed on to me. I wish someone could tell me how to cook that bread. It would remind me of the great joy and delight we all felt when we saw them coming down our road from the high Dust Bowl plains. “The Mexicans are coming! The Mexicans are coming!” we shouted, and it was a great moment in our lives twice a year for three or four years in the 1930s.

Most of the Mexicans I encounter now are doing yard work or picking fruit here in Florida. Each time I see a brown face, I greet them with a smile and think of those wonderful people who I have always considered amigos. If anyone can give me a recipe for making the flat bread like those amigos made it, I would be most grateful.

Okie From Kissimmee

Dear Gabacho: Flat bread? You mean a tortilla, right?

Your letter is sweet, so I’ll spare you any further ridicule other than to note, as I always do when talking about Oklahoma, that the state should unconditionally support undocumented immigrants since it was founded by those dirty illegals called Sooners.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

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