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Latinos Don’t Think Speaking Spanish Important To “Latinoness”

We told you last week about a dig that Marco Rubio did at Ted Cruz about his Spanish fluency. When Cruz brought up an interview Rubio did on Univision, Rubio retorted that he didn’t know how Cruz even knew what he said because he doesn’t speak Spanish. Cruz replied in broken Spanish and was widely mocked on social media. But the question is an important one, especially as Latinos now become second and third generation Americans about whether or not speaking Spanish is important to a person’s “Latinoness”. According to a new Pew survey, the answer for most American Latinos is no. 71% said that Spanish fluency is not a measure of whether someone is Latino. This is not surprising seeing as that increasingly younger generations of Latinos in the United States speak little to no Spanish. But this is not a new trend.

I grew up in Texas and many of my friends were of Mexican descent. However, their families had been part of the United States since Texas became a state in the 1840’s. Most of these friend’s families had not spoken Spanish in generations. As immigrant groups assimilate into American society, they lose their mother tongue. Take, for example, the Italians or Jews that came over from Europe in the 19th century. By the second generation they spoke only English. I’ve seen it in my own family. My brother is 21 years younger than I am. While I grew up with my grandparents who spoke mostly Spanish and therefor led to my fluency, my brother speaks no Spanish at all. Is he any less Latino than I am for it?  Both of our parents are still Cuban immigrants, but for whatever reason those twenty years in our ages led to Spanish being deemphasized  in our respective lives. While I am glad that I am fully bilingual, I certainly do not believe that my brother is not Latino for his his monolingual existence. What do you think?

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