Well – here we are. 2019. Wow. I have begun this website, http://www.MarkSotomayor.com, in order to aimlessly communicate my thoughts. This blog post, as you will see, has no specific purpose other than to serve as a journal for documentation of my personal human thoughts. Enjoy!
Remember the days when people said that the world would end at the year 2000 and that everyone should “party like it’s 1999”? I don’t. I was only two and a half years old at that time.
Every human has a “first memory”. Sometimes as humans get older their “first memory” changes to being that of an older age as well. My first memory was at my 4-year-old birthday party; good times – crazy times. I wish it was still acceptable at my current age to run around all day playing soccer and basketball, eating chocolate cake, playing with my dogs, eating fresh strawberries that grew in the back yard, and drinking a whole liter of Sunny D.
Yup – it was truly “the good life” I was living that day – November 26, 2001. I was surrounded by all my fellow toddling “friends”, mostly young white children of the Mormon religion (since I lived in Salt Lake City, at the time). Since this is my first memory, I sometimes wish my brain would have started registering long-term memories just a few months earlier. Then, I would be able to have some level of remembrance of the events that took place September 11, 2001.
But at 4 years old, with my family of four (me, my 6 year old sister, my father, and my mother), I lived a worry-free life. Everything was fun and games for me (as it still is sometimes). We lived, as a family, very much to ourselves (as we still do). We didn’t have any aunts, uncles, grandparents, extended family, or family friends around – they were all in Peru living their own lives.
The other day, someone told me “I call my grandma every night, she’s the best!” Knowing the type of talker he was, I responded “I’ve probably spoken to my grandmother in my lifetime the amount that you speak to her in just one night lol.”
Well, it turns out that he spoke to his grandmother up to 2 hours every night! I got to thinking about it – and did the math – it turns out I speak to both my set of grandparents about 6 minutes a year. 6 minutes times 21 years equals two hours and 6 minutes – yup, he was about right!
That is, except for whenever I visit them in Peru – which I’ve done twice in my life for about 12 months total time. But boy, whenever I visit my family in Peru the culture shock is real!! Both parties – my direct family and my extended family – experience the effects of each respective culture clashing with the other, for better or worse. Clearly, we live two very different sets of lives.
For example, a typical Limeño (a person from Lima), stays indoors most of the day due to the extreme overpopulation and air pollution. They mainly use bus transportation and if they own their own car, they rarely use it. On top of it all, the Peruvian Spanish language is spoken loud and passionately, filled with slang words and odd sayings.
In contrast, in The United States, my direct family would eat dinners outside (since we had a backyard, a rarity in Lima), go to public outdoor events, and drive around from place-to-place most days. On top of it all, our family spoke “Spanglish” – a fusion of Spanish and English.
To give you a few examples of Spanglish, as there are many ways of producing this fusion of languages, I’ve laid some popular ways of speaking Spanglish below:
- Parents speak Spanish, children spoke English in conversation
- Parents speak a deeply accented English, children spoke broken Spanish
- Some words (mainly to describe feelings) that exist in the Spanish language but not the English language would be “plugged” into the English conversation as necessary
- Or my favorite: In public places, like Walmart, we would comment on different bystanders and their conversations in Spanish (so no one could understand we were speaking about them).
When I am writing an application or resume, I oftentimes have my mother review them. She reminds me, “you didn’t right down here that you are billingual – that is very valuable to people.” The truth is that sometimes Spanish is so deeply en-grained into my subconscious that I forget that I speak it.
But still, I speak with a strong American accent to those true Spanish speakers who know how the language should sound. During my last trip to Peru (in between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college) when I was 18 years old, I felt like a fish that was placed in a bowl of water that contained other fish that looked just like him. At last! The fish was among his people – finally looking like everyone else! But, when the fish opened his mouth to communicate, the fishes that looked like him realized that fish was nothing like them – he was from a different fish bowl altogether.
There have been certain times where I was in engaged conversation with a Spanish-speaker but could not find the right words or pronunciation to communicate as effectively in Spanish as I could have in English. Although I understood everything my fellow Peruvians were saying, I simply couldn’t communicate what I had in my mind with them well enough.
What I have described in the above paragraph is one of a communication handicap. It feels terrible, as if you are being demeaned, and as if others that hear the way you speak cannot help but deem you unintelligent. I write this part not to ask for your sympathy or to stir up your pity, but to state that this is how immigrants to the United States feel every day among native English-speakers. And we Americans, including myself, subconsciously (or consciously) deem these immigrants unintelligent – or at minimum, unintelligible whilst communicating.
Sure, immigrants can learn to speak like an American – but they rarely ever lose their accents (unless they were brought to the U.S. at a very early age). My sister and I speak perfect English but sub-perfect Spanish; my parents (which have been in the U.S. for 23 years) speak English with thick Spanish accents but speak very formal Spanish.
The older I get, the more I have a realized appreciation for my parents and the struggle they have gone through (and still go through today!) Imagine having a life in an overpopulated city, where you’ve lived your whole life, for 24 and 37 years, respectively. They were face with an opportunity – go to the U.S. for a better life for their soon-to-come children OR stay in Peru.
They chose the former, obviously, and my life had changed drastically because of it, even before I was born. I’m certain I would not be writing this blog post, operating a startup, or even have my own car if I was living in Peru. I don’t know what I’d do! The entrepreneurial opportunity in Peru is a trace of what exists in the U.S. (which is a deeply consumer society).
Happy 2019. This blog post was everywhere, I know. If you have weathered the several paragraphs, then you might have a window of understanding for how my chaotic mind works. Thanks for reading!!