Being the Hispanic Girl that couldn’t speak Spanish

My name is Alexis Rivera, I am half Puerto Rican, black and white, and I can’t speak Spanish. People look at me, see my last name and like to assume that I speak Spanish. It might sound humorous to some, but this is my reality.

 Why do I feel like it is important to share this part of my life? Well, not being able to speak Spanish has played a major role in my upbringing and continues to affect me on a daily basis. 

Half of my family speaks Spanish and I was surrounded by individuals who spoke Spanish in my neighborhood. All of my life I have been bombarded with questions such as, “How are you Hispanic and you can’t even speak Spanish?”, “Doesn’t your family speak Spanish?” or “Didn’t you learn how to speak Spanish in high school?” The only thing I learned in high school was “puedo ir al baño?” because that was the only way I was allowed to use the restroom.

In my case, I can pick out a few words here and there or try to figure out what someone is saying by their body language, but it is very difficult for me to respond back.

Honestly, I thought moving to South Florida would open many doors for me and allow me to grow, but I feel like it has put a halt on my life. It is hard for me to find internships or job opportunities when almost every position requires me to be fluent in Spanish. Growing up and still to this day, it has been embarrassing at times to admit that I don’t speak the same language as those around me.

It wasn’t until recently that I saw the light and decided instead of putting myself down, I will take the initiative to learn from my environment and figure out a way to become a Spanish speaker.

I’m proud of who I am and the diverse culture that I was raised to know and love. I will continue to represent where I am from and shout “yo soy boricua pa’que tu lo sepas” with pride.

I want anyone out there who is in my situation to know that it’s alright if you can’t speak Spanish, it does not make you any less Latino than the person next to you. Just be open to learning and use your resources to your advantage.