Episode 006:  What Happens When A Teacher Scolds A Chicano Activist For Speaking Spanish

Jenny Ana Santos was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She is a community activist who speaks up for staying connected to ones roots. In preschool, Jenny remembers being scolded by her teacher for speaking Spanish in school. Instead of internalizing that Spanish was wrong, Jenny shared what happened at school to her mother, who then reminded her that their family comes from a powerful people. Jenny’s mother continued to raise her in the context of celebrating the beauty of their culture. For Jenny, even at a young age, these teachings instilled a strong sense of knowing who she was and what she was meant to do.


Actually my full name is Jenny Ann Santos so it completely sounds like a southern name. When my mom registered me she put me Jenny Ana Santos but the woman that was taking all the information didn’t feel that was American enough so she switched my name around and I didn’t find that out until years later and I talked to my mom, ‘you told me my name was this why is  my birth certificate reflecting different’ and she is like ‘oh, they made the changes, if you want maybe you could change it’ it’s unfortunate but it is the same story that has happened to a lot of folks that have migrated or that English wasn’t their first language and when they went to the registrar trying to even put their own name down it has been changed just because it wasn’t American enough. (music) >> Your mom is from where again? >> She is from La Noria de Molinos Zacatecas Mexico. >> And your father?  El “Reluje” de los Aguascalientes>> and you were born in?  >>> I was born in Los Angeles, California.  So when I was a kiddo my mom took us to child care some other kiddos and myself were speaking in Spanish and there was this woman and she came up to me and just started saying I shouldn’t speak in Spanish. I had no idea why she came at me in this way. It really impacted me and I started processing while being silent. Apparently, speaking Spanish is wrong and there is something wrong with me and my people and when I shared that with my mother she reminded me that, no. We come up from a powerful people, we contribute so much to this country, we come from X, Y, and Z and she shared that entire, like that beauty, that culture, that enrichment that allowed me to keep my head up high. That there was a turning point to realize who I was and what I was meant to do.>> You know what we are doing here with this Project ñ, what we are saying is that ñ generation is the first generation born here whose parents are from a Spanish-speaking country

Jenny: I don’t feel that I was the first born here.  My grandfather shared the story that our people had come from Colorado. Now, in my mind I refer to it like, ‘wait a minute, that’s America, how could that have happened?’ But the reality is that Mexico extended all the way up to Colorado and with his story is that our people migrated down and they eventually ended up in Zacatecas and then eventually in Aguascalientes and so for this concept of me being a first-born generation, that’s out the door. I am not a first generation my grandmother way back then was first generation, my grandfather was first-generation. I am actually returning back, just like the buffalo returned back to its natural habitat, just like the butterfly will return back to their natural habitat or to go to a place where their ancestors went, it’s in our DNA. It’s in our cosmic memory. When you connect your roots, when connect to your existence, your roots can run so deep because your people have been on this land so long that when people connect back to their roots the language will prevail, our songs will prevail, our existence  will prevail and our culture will maintain regardless of whatever happens.

Do you know an ñ with an amazing story? Tweet at us using #soyñ AND #beingñ so we can connect with you! Or join our private Facebook group and connect with other ñs or share your story!

Thanks for watching!

2 replies
  1. j. michel
    j. michel says:

    United States seems to be the only country where people believe that “speaking only one lenguage is better than speaking two or more” I am a Mexican born, my wife was an American of Irish ancestry, my son grew-up speaking spanish thanks to every summer vacation that he spent visiting his grand parents and cousins in México. He learned to speak french while in middle and high school. He went to college and thanks to his knowledge of three lenguages he was able to work his way thru college while having a decent and well paid job. I am proud of him, he is being self supporting since when he was 18 and is a very productive member of sociaty and very knowledgeble and proud of his Mexican ancestry. And I am veery proud of my Mexican-American son.

  2. neogeoweb
    neogeoweb says:

    Prohibir expresarte en una lengua no es algo que se deba enseñar en la escuela. El saber dos idiomas es síntoma de riqueza cultural y abre posibilidades de trabajo, ya que cada vez serán más reclamados los puestos que necesiten de gente que domine ambos idiomas. Tanto para la comercialización de bienes y servicios en los propios estados de EEUU con amplias mayorías de hispano parlantes, como para empresas que comercian con países de América Latina. Por lo tanto impedir que un niño aprenda bien ambos idiomas creo que es contraproducente.

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