The Role of Language as an Americanized Latin Immigrant
Updated: Jun 10, 2020
My journey of rejecting and embracing my mother-tongue
You might be wondering how the heck I got my kooky name. I was born Paola Esperanza (with a few more names I'll spare you for now) but changed it to Gemini Ferrie when I was 20 years old in the California desert on my first acid trip. Yeah, that was some really good acid.
Early in 2020, when I became a citizen of the US, I added Rosegold because I love roses, I love gold, and I also love the color rose gold - such that my wedding ring is a rosy gold that emits vintage vibes. I'm nostalgic for the visually pleasing fashion of the the 1800's and 1950's, just to name a few, but I'll save that for a different post.
My husband's last name is Miller. My whole life I dreamt of being married. When I found out my given last name was not actually connected to my biological father through a paternity test (that was devastating, to say the least) - I could't wait to find and marry the man of my dreams so I could take his name and get rid of the imposter.
So now that I've dealt with the “huh?” about my name, let's get down to it.
What makes me Latin? First of all, I'm not a fully authentic Latin person according to people who grew up in Latin America (whether they still live there or not). That means, when I visit my relatives in Nicaragua they see me as an Americanized brown girl with less than perfect Spanish mashing the Nica & Mexican Spanish accents.
On the other hand, while I'm in the States, American born & raised folks often sniff out the slight Latin accent from my high level English. To them, I'm not fully American. I'm foreign. I'm an immigrant who's done a good job blending in.
And forget it when I've had a margarita, spilled or broke something accidentally, hit my funny bone or stubbed my delicate small toe.
Depending on the level of intensity of intoxication, pain, and shock, Spanish exclamations and curse words ranging from Catholic friendly to prostitute style vulgarities come flying out of the Latin parts of my brain like fiesta confetti before my mind can think straight.
My husband says I'm different when I speak Spanish. I'm louder, my brain and mouth fire off in a more unhinged fashion, and my energy is way more animated.
Out of the 7 Latin countries I've visited, from Mexico to Costa Rica, Nicaragua has the loudest, most rambunctious folks 'que no tienen pelos en la lengua'.
That literally translates to 'they don't have hairs on their tongues' - which means, they don't hesitate to say what's really on their mind. Not because they're mean, but because they're curious and unrestrained like children are. They tell it like it is and expect you to be unbothered by it because they assume you ought to be just as unleashed.
Why is it cute when kids say the darnest, most honest things to people's faces but when adults do that it's impolite and improper?
Growing up in Los Angeles since the age of 4, in a culture that tends to be polite to look good and not rock the boat, having a loose tongue quickly taught me that if I wanted to fit in and be accepted, I had to simmer down and be more nice and sweet like girls should be.
Even though I was stuck at the very bottom society's lower income class, with a working single mother of 4 (and 5th child later) on welfare, who still didn't have enough money for food sometimes, I was inculcated with the mantra of looking presentable and being appreciative, receptive, and kind to others. (I'm still down with that!)
This, of course, also added to the internal conflict between my natural Latin unruliness and the more composed tendency of American culture.
If you're born & raised in America and feel this more composed tendency doesn't apply to you, talk to me after you go to Nicaragua. You'll see what I mean. It's cray cray. You've got to be sure of yourself because nobody will hesitate to say with love: "girl, how are you gonna get a man wearing your hair like that?" (lol)
Due to this notion that I'm not from here nor there, in my 20's I decided to embrace more of my Americanness and push some of my Latin ways to the side, starting with polishing up my loose, free-form Nica Spanish so it resembled (more of) the presentableness of formal Spanish. Talk about the ancient deep seated survival mechanism of needing to belong to survive.
What ended up happening is that I became embarrassed to speak Spanish due to the fear of being ridiculed or not gotten, which happened plenty of times. What was more embarrassing though, was struggling in conversations with my beloved Aunt Laura to find the right words to express myself as easily as I do in English because she'd tease me. Yes, I should make sure my Spanish doesn't completely dwindle into the ethers.
I was only proud to speak Spanish with American people whose Spanish was far
less respectable than mine. It was an opportunity to show off that I was different and skilled in something they struggled with. But when I spoke to Spanish-speaking only people, I'd shy away out of fear they'd label me as an Americanized Nica who only held the title because of my birthplace.
As I got closer to my Aunt Laura, my desire to get better at speaking Spanish grew. What followed was a slow warming up to speaking less than perfect Spanish with for-real Latin people. I have to admit that during this process, I ended up having an RTT Hypnosis session to help me shake off the embarrassment of speaking my mother tongue. (sorry grandma)
My next RTT hypnosis session was done in Spanish with a few English words, when needed. So Spanglish. She agreed. And I got through it without self-judgment or weirdness. I got so excited about feeling so unencumbered that I invited my Peruvian colleague to have a few free coaching sessions with me in Spanish, which I'd never done.
She was surprised to learn at the end of our coaching, that I had been consulting the English-Spanish online dictionary many times throughout each session. The coaching in Spanish actually made a profound difference in her attitude toward herself and her life. Sweet!
What followed were fantasies of me doing social media lives and posts, offering webinars, and even coaching – in Spanish. These fantasies were actually more like mini nightmares because I wasn't ready for them. “No way,” I thought. “I'm the last person on earth qualified for that.” I must say I was certainly intrigued.
Having the webpage up and running for my 1st webinar in English spurred a fantasy of offering the same training on emotional intelligence & self love in Spanish. (dem soul whispers!) I have not lifted one finger on that one. However, my imagination has provided a few ideas for how & where to connect with Spanish-speaking people in leadership who may just be interested! Follow the crumbs!
In my quest to have the ability to translate my human behavior work into Spanish, I've bought a few personal growth books in Spanish to learn the proper terminology with the intention of serving the Spanish-speaking community at some point.
I know there's a need there and the challenge feels worthwhile, as it is giving me a reason to refine my Spanish so I can better communicate with Aunt Laura, whom I love and adore.
Since my mom passed away in 2014, my beloved Aunt has adopted me. We keep growing closer and am grateful to have the kind of relationship I always wanted with my mom.
The things we do for love take us on marvelous learning and growing adventures, if we are willing to keep challenging the status quo we were indoctrinated with or assumed for ourselves previously.
What wonderful challenging things have you done for LOVE, romantic or not?
I'm not from here nor there. So where the heck am I from, then?
Ha! Well, that's for me to decide. I'm freakin proud to have Latin roots that make me crave Gallo Pinto (rice & beans). And I'm also proud to now be American through citizenship.
I've often felt like I'm from another planet though. One where kookiness rules. I choose to accept everything about me that falls under the categories of strengths, weaknesses, and weirdness and I'm choosing to make MAGIC with all of it.
One of the ways my kookiness shines through is by speaking to my husband Blake in English with a super thick Latin accent. I use that to ask him if he would have still married me having that fresh immigrant off the boat accent. Lol. I have a lot of fun poking at all the nooks and crannies of my own psyche.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on your own take on the subject of language and culture...
Thanks for tuning in... Until next time,
Gemini Ferrie Rosegold M
I'm most fascinated by love. Romantic love, self-love, and emotional intelligence. My ideal clients are vision-driven leaders with a commitment to self-mastery. They are over-achievers who always feel they could be doing more, who work too much because they love what they do, but after each accomplishment wonder 'is this it?' Regardless of all their achievements they still secretly have impostor syndrome sometimes. They're often single (or in unfulfilling relationships) & puzzled by emotions and love, as logic is their strong suit. If this sounds like you, we should have a conversation...
*Please Share. Thank you very much.