I speak Spanish because I CAN.

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by Lexie Zuno

I speak Spanish because I CAN. I come to school because I CAN. I am Mex- I- Can but I can also call myself American because I AM.

Someone once told me, “be proud of who you are and always stay true to yourself.” Honestly, I didn’t know what that meant until my junior year of high school. The matter of the fact is, the more I have progressed, the more I have seen how ugly the world can be. High school is a rollercoaster, and sadly as great as it might be, the downs can be horrid- especially when it comes to features given to people during the time of conception.

Never did I think that my brown skin would be so bothersome to others.

Never did I think my ability to speak another language would make others upset.

Never did I think I would be expected to be a Sophia Vergara or a walking Selena.

Not once did it occur to me that people would have such stereotypical assumptions of my future, like being a stay at home mother with a lot of children, or a maid at that. They say I look and act a certain way because I’m Hispanic.

That’s offensive. Can you tell me what I am for what I am? I am a nice person.

I’m more than what I seem. I’m a 17 year old hispanic girl and senior student at Grandville High School. I am the oldest daughter of Isela and Jose Luis Zuno. I am a role model for my two younger siblings.

My parents were really young when they had me. My dad barely had a stable job when he came here before I was born. But I was born here.

I belong here.

My grandparents took care of me and raised me in Spanish. When I got to Kindergarten, it was evident I had issues with English. I was taken to different rooms to improve my languages, but my teachers made sure I was not an outcast, and I learned.

My dad was not so fortunate. I struggle to teach him things just so he can pass his citizen test. I have to teach him things we didn’t learn in American history class. What the heck? My teacher barely touched on these subjects. If a current student in school and the average American isn’t expected to know these things, why does he?

The test wants you to mess up. Unfair testing did not end a long time ago. It is still happening. Those limitations still exist. My dad pays taxes. He follows the law. But he cannot be a citizen yet. He wants our family to prosper here without fear. But the reality is we are afraid.

My family belongs here. We belong here.

I once saw this post on Instagram that says “I will raise my kids to speak Spanish like my parents, I don’t want no frijole looking kid who can’t speak Spanish.”

You’re looked down on in our culture down if you can’t speak Spanish.

I don’t want my kids to not speak Spanish. I am giving them half of me, and Spanish is a big part of that.

A guy told me I should teach my future kids only English because “we’re in America and we speak English here.”

That made my stomach hurt. Made me feel icky.

I told him “Well, Spanish was my first language and I’m pretty sure were conversing in English just fine.”

In a Spanish class I am obligated to know what the heck I am talking about.

After an AP Spanish exam people said “That was easy for you.”

Would you get 100% on an AP English exam? No. It’s dialected. We don’t come to school speaking perfect English. Should I be expected to know “perfect” Spanish?

Being in an English classroom teachers ask me to relate to the books, but all I have ever read is white women. Princesses. Even the culture and how people are raised is white. They had slaves and my people cleaning their houses. Housekeepers, maid, gardeners, etc. All hispanic.

The books that we do read that are connected to my culture are all struggle stories.

We are successful too.

My dad has always said he wants me to take my education seriously. At one point putting food on the table was hard. He worked two jobs. The Spanish idiom “pa que no trabajes como perro” (work like a dog) says it all.

He said “I don’t want you to kill yourself at a job for a meal. Nothing comes easy in life. Take it seriously. Go to college. Get a successful career.”

He didn’t have that privilege. Would he like to go to school right now? Yes but he can’t. He dropped out of school in Mexico to come here. I WILL forever be proud to get that diploma on graduation day. My dad doesn’t have that to show off. My aunts don’t. My uncles don’t. My older cousins don’t. All they have is a card that says they can work here.

America is a great place. The pros are bigger than the cons. We strive for the American Dream, but my family knows it’s limited. But I have the power to do what I please. I come to school trying to fulfill that dream, but the books never have my background. Where are the families who came from a different country to succeed here? The ones who had to learn English to READ A BOOK or do anything here.

We have to learn or we are stuck in a ditch.

No one is holding your hand.

You need to do it yourself.

You need to work for yourself.

5 Comments

  1. Lexi, I am not surprised at your eloquence and clairity but I am amazed at your strength and resilience. You are a wonderful young woman, and yes, you DO belong here. I am so lucky to know you! – Mrs. VE

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  2. Lexi, I’m so glad that you shared your story. You are a strong, determined young woman. Never stop believing in yourself.
    You have a bright future!
    Mrs. Merriman

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  3. Lexi…. Wow is all i can say. You speak your truth so proudly. I am white but i was raised in the Hispanic culture. My step father is from Mexico and when he came here he didnt have papers to work he didnt speak english he didnt have a high school diploma. So when you speak about your dad i understand. I didnt have to deal with that because i am white but i do feel your pain. I am so proud of you dont you ever let anyone tell you u can be something u want to be. Be proud of who you are and where you come from. You will make it vary far in this world. Good luck with you journey my dear .

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