For those of you who know me, you know that I speak Spanish and Portuguese. I began learning Spanish in 2nd grade. Naturally, I gravitated towards “las palabras malas” or the bad words. But piecing these words together with other phrases led me down the road to speaking Spanish.
Then one day I met my wife. She thought I was insane! Who is this gringo saying all these bad words in Spanish and laughing so hard about it? Why is he speaking Spanish she wondered out loud. The answer, I responded, is because I’m from New Mexico. I explained that most everyone in New Mexico speaks at least a little Spanish. She still didn’t believe me.
A couple of years passed. We never made it to New Mexico, although she kept mentioning she wanted to see where I grew up. Another year passed and then one boring day we decided to go skiing in New Mexico. We loaded the cars up and away we went for a week long ski vacation.
We drove straight to the ski shop. Walking in we were greeted by some light skinned workers speaking to us in Spanish. My wife thought they were Mexicans. This changed when they stopped speaking Spanish and greeted some incoming “gringos” with perfectly fluent English. Obviously the workers were gringos themselves.
I yelled “I told you so, now you see what I’ve been telling you for so long. It’s not that there’s something special about me, it’s because it’s very normal for people in New Mexico to know and speak Spanish”!
This one little 10 minute experience summed up what I’d been trying to explain to my wife for years – it’s normal for white people to speak Spanish in New Mexico. It finally clicked and she thought it was pretty cool 🙂