Once I was standing in line at customs after my husband and I had just got back from a cruise. A customs officer pulled me and my husband aside and asked if we could follow him. It bothered me that he didn’t speak to us in English. Instead, in his broken Spanish, he said, “Ven Cone-Mego, Poor Fa-Bor.”
To which, I immediately replied, “We speak English.”
I get this everywhere; from the grocery store to the mall and mostly from people that are not Hispanic. Conversations would start with, “hola!” even though I started speaking in English first.
I was born and raised in the U.S. and although yes, I know you could possibly “assume” I speak Spanish from my olive-tanned skin and dark locks, for some reason it troubled me. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of my culture and the fact that I’m bilingual, but I felt as if they were telling me, “How could you possibly know English? You MUST only speak Spanish.”
After having my son, these feelings have completely changed. You see, I’m raising my son to be bilingual as well. My husband and I only speak to him in Spanish and so whenever we are out and about, from the playground to the mall, we continue to only speak Spanish. Now that I look back, speaking Spanish was the best gift that my mother could have given me. It has opened so many doors in my career. In 2008, I launched a fashion blog called Viva Fashion aimed to target acculturated Latinas (who like me were born in the U.S. and speak English). I write about everything from fashion to beauty.
Today, I represent several brands as an on-air style expert and Spanish-speaking spokesperson, appearing on TV networks from Univision to Telemundo. I’ve worked with dozens of brands from T.J. Maxx to ZYRTEC and they hire me because I speak SPANISH. It’s such an advantage in my field, especially with so many brands wanting to target this demographic (even the New York Times wrote a story featuring me).
Not only that, but it has allowed me to become an entrepreneur. I feel so blessed that I get to work from home and spend time with my son. So Instead of feeling “bad” that someone doesn’t think I speak English I embrace it. I embrace the fact that I speak such a beautiful language. I know one day, it will open many doors for my son as well. And I thank my son for helping me love it.
Read more of Carmen’s writing on her fashion blog, Viva Fashion.