I was 20 years old and on a visit to Puerto Rico with my parents. It was raining that morning so my abuelo (pictured) and I were standing on the porch of his house in a little barrio called "Pulguillas" which is located up in the central mountain range of the island. Literally, “pulgas” means “fleas” so the name of the barrio, Pulguillas, is “Little fleas”. Well, just let your imagination run on that one.
My heritage is mixed; my father is Puerto Rican and my mother was from Kentucky. I’m a Puerto Rican Hillbilly. I’ve always gravitated to the Latino side in me, but that rainy day in Pulguillas opened my eyes and changed my life — and my life’s work.
I, like many Latinos who have spent significant time in the United States, was faced with the stark reality that I was losing it. Yes, I was losing my language and my culture. It’s a slow burn and sometimes you don’t realize what’s happening until you’re standing on the porch with your 90 year old grandfather.
Well, it hit me. My Spanish was fading away. I had gone through Junior High and High School in Elkhart, Indiana. At that time there were no other Latinos in the school and the closest we came to using our Spanish at school was when we played the air horn on my dad’s truck that played, “La Cucaracha.”
As the rain poured down, I looked at my grandfather and said, “mucha agua abuelo” (a lot of water grandfather). He looked back at me and pierced my soul and said, “No, mucha lluvia Ricardo” (a lot of rain Ricardo). Yes, he corrected my Spanish! At that moment, I felt it. I was at a cross-roads. I would choose to re-connect with my heritage and language on a much deeper level or I would be Puerto Rican in name only. Soon, tears welled up in my eyes and through my grandfather I was re-connected to a deep love for our people and language.
Why do I love Spanish? Because it connects me to the things I most deeply value and cherish. Our people, my country, my father, my wife, my youngest daughter, my staff, my students, and yes, the fond memories of my grandfather who I deeply loved.
If you would like to share why YOU love Spanish, or your thoughts on this post, please do so below. Gracias.