Yo creo que el idioma es poderoso, pero cuando es entendido. I believe that language is powerful, but when understood. Growing up in a two story house right next to the border of two countries, the language I spoke was either Mexican or Mexican-American. From my room, in our two story red bricked American home, I could look out the window and see Mexico just on the other side of the border highway. Even though I told my mother Mexico was so close to El Paso, she said I couldn’t cross over to Juarez just by simply walking. Before you actually reached the “other side,” you had to cross over a fence of over 10 ft. tall with barbed wire on the top, a man-made river of over 12 ft. in dept for sure, run from men in green outfits driving white and green trucks with guns in their belts, cross over another fence of over 10 ft. tall with barbed wire on the top, swim through a muddy river with water carrying tires and bushes, and finally, walk through a steep concrete ditch full of torn mattresses, toilet paper, and dogs rotting on the cement. If I was lucky, I would only make it through the first fence. “See, it’s not as easy as you thought, huh?” my mother would ask me. “No,” is all I could say.
“One day,” my grandfather told me, “a man in a green outfit shot a man trying to cross over to the American side.” “But why?” I asked. “Because he couldn’t understand English,” is all he ever said. I was raised believing that people died because they couldn’t speak English. Today, I support the idea that English should be the official language, but it is also no secret that I advocate and exercise the use of Spanish as well. I contemplate on the idea of whether of not I am walking contradiction or a traitor as many Mexicans would put it? However, it is not just about pointing at Mexicans, although my Hispanic culture gets much publicity, it is about all nationalities. My Japanese friend’s mom has trouble understanding contracts and agreements that she has to sign, my Mexican grandmother can’t understand what medicines she is taking, let alone the instructions to do so, and my Chinese friend’s father, who has heart disease, can’t communicate with doctors if he is ever in dire need of help.
Later in life, I found out that the reason why the immigrant was shot was because although the man in green warned him to stop or else he would fire, the language he was speaking was in English. The man, speaking only Spanish, never understood him. I believe that language can cost you your life. My brother is now training to be one of those green men and just in case he is ever encountered with a man who only speaks Spanish, he can have the ability to save his life.
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