Los maestros siempre están diciendo lo mismo, ‘ay siempre es mutuo, aprendo tanto de mis alumnos, todos los días.’ Very nice, but I really did learn from a former student, quisqueyanísima and increiblemente sassy, that sometimes English is actually Spanish.
‘Indeed,’ as they say, certain urban uses of the English language—“dead” and “I can’t”, for instance—may appear to be ‘English’ but they are actually pure Dominican, fully derived from Spanish. ‘Dead,’ I learned, signifies ‘me muero,’ as in ‘diablo coño, me muero de la risa.’ So deep is that laughter, in fact, that ‘me muero’ becomes ‘dead’ and ‘dead’ is now always, lurking, a possible muerte de la risa: the two are now inseparable. So, to all you trumpites out there, you’re speaking Spanish now.
I found that almost as funny as “I can’t,” which, I also gathered thanks to sass encarnated, meant something along the lines of, “ay mijo, yo no puedo contigo, tu eres tremendo.” All of that, in our instantaneous digital age, is conveyed in two syllables (lo absurdo de I can’t me hace reir, as if it demands recognition for being such a literal translaton, laughing at the ‘no puedo’ that that lives inside of it). ‘You’re too much’ is no longer the phrase, mi gente, es “I can’t” and suddenly, English has become Spanish (or is it Spanish becoming English) again: there is no turning back. It’s a delightful passageway into Nuestra América de José Martí.
I had done some reading years ago on the Latinización de Nueba Yol, always finding hope in that kind of discourse. That low flame of esperanza linguística burns just a bit brighter in me when they say that the U.S. (with over 50 million Spanish speakers, cosa rica) is the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, when I’m reminded by my college classroom sociolinguística notes (still taped to my wall) with exclamation points and yellow highlights that the U.S. constitution does not include an official language, and that by 2050 Spanish-speakers will outnumber English-speakers in estados unidísimos. The U.S. has more Spanish-speakers than la madre patria; España weeps pero te queremos igual, señores Ibéricos. Will I live to see this? Instead of nighttime prayer, I just put my two hands together on the bed in traditional kneeling pose and mumble to myself in Spanish, ‘dale mi gente, dale, quiero que sea Bronx y Miami en Montana.” This possibility of being a Spanish-speaking nation is what keeps me going each day, I’ve decided.
And, though the Spanish-speaking world which includes the U.S. has such diverse climatological variation, I lived in tropical and desert areas so when Central Park in February involves Brazilian-style beach volleyball, merengue and funk blasting on different parts of the park simultaneously, I feel just a bit closer to 2050, mi año querido.
Será que mis nietos me hablarán en español, en un inglés que lleva consigo el español?
“Abuelito, I can’t, you’re too funny. Dead.”
“Ay mi’jito, no te me mueras ni de la risa, mi nietecito lindo, en mi epoca era todo ‘si se puede’, tenga fé, but if you’re dead from laughter, ta’ to’”
My grandmother used to marvel at my ability to drive becaue she said ‘in this day and age, you have to have eyes all over your head.’ Cuando yo me pongo de viejito, tendré que tener un English that is Spanish, Spanish that is English, and all other variations ‘all over my head.’ Como dicen en Cuba, ‘asere, cuidate tu eledá.’ So I guess there’s nothing new about this—there Yoruba eledá is the Spanish ‘la cabeza’–it just seems exciting in this day and age to imagine non-Spanish speakers using dead and I can’t in Spanished-English. Or are they doing that now?
It was during that warm February afternoon stroll through Central Park—complete with old dudes dancing on roller skates—that the most gorgeous Nordic looking beach volleyball player caught my eye, a gift from god almighty, I thought.
As I marveled unabashedly, I realized that I was also looking into a world of language on that sand-filled volleyball court. A Brazilian guy spoke in Portuguese to his friend who responded in puro quisqueyano:
“Colé meu brode, fazendo o que de bom amigão?”
“Dímelo, qué lo qué papá?”
Who needs to respond to questions, I thought, when you’re playing beach volleyball on a sand court in February. I don’t even miss Cuba and Brazil right now; I’m back! Though fully in my element, the Nordic-looking woman captivated me so intensively, and it was not just because of her utter perfection and that I probably would have married her on that very court should she have so much as looked at me (ni siquiera esto!) and should mi madrina have been present. (Como buena madrina, ella tiene la última palabra de las candidatas que se me aparecen cada día: Can I marry her? No mijo, you’ll be dead. Nada de risada, ya sé lo que la sassy te enseñó pero no no no, qué va).
And then, in the midst of my full admiration and appreciation of this elegance radiating towards my person, she turned quickly and walked towards the quisqueyano, anger in her sandy steps, toes kicking up granos de arena that seemed to trace the outlines of an even more gorgeous aura than I had expected. Now, as a sidenote, living in the US you somehow feel out via aura-analysis who can speak Spanish and who cannot, and this young woman certainly did not. Ni un poquito. Esa mujer divina hablaba alguna lengua nordica decendiente de Vikings y qué sé yo, y un English un poquito callejero (you could tell because she spoke from her heart and not her nasal passages).
English was also not her first language. But she learned English in New York, the linguistic aura reader would conclude, and the insult that came from her perfect lips was almost as beautiful as their pouting curve: “You have no face talking about me,” she said angrily, looking quickly at el quisqueyno ofendidísimo and his friends to make sure the linguistically loaded insult registered. And it did. It was pure English, in a way, that only made sense through Spanish, prompting the Quisqueyano to turn to his Brazilian broder and say, “Ay dio pero ella ahora me está llamando de decarao.” The broder response: “Mas você é, you have no face meu rei.” English as Spanish confirmed through the Portuguese-speaking witness. English as omnipresent back translated Spanish: Me muero, dead; I can’t, No puedo contigo; Have no face, decarao. Now, you can speak Spanish by speaking English: la belleza de la lengua se anuncia! Try building a wall around that and you get trumped, y rápido, mijo.
A SiroccoBlue Original @ Todos los Derechos y Derechitos Reservados–March, 2016