Episode 002: Why This Latino Feels Heartbroken About Not Being Able To Speak Spanish

Charles is co-owner and partner of Wigwam Creative. Based in Denver, Colorado with his wife and three daughters, Charles is an entrepreneur and powerhouse creative director.  Charles is an ñ although he was raised by his father in Washington state, his mother is from El Salvador.  Charles recalls feeling different, being American and yet Latino. Without his mother’s culture present in his childhood, he speaks of his El Salvadoran “other side” as a hidden and mysterious part of his identity. Related Links: Wigwam Creative


We were at camp, summer camp and my counselor was like’ oh are you adopted?’ I was like ‘no’.  >> She is a different skin color, a little bit darker so people would be like ‘which one of you is adopted?’>> Even though guess I kind of look like it I know I am not completely Hispanic so I don’t see the point of putting it down. >> I just think it’s part of our culture, I don’t see why you would not want to be proud of it.

Charles: I mean, Mia all her life has known one reality of what our family make –up is and there’s been this mysterious kind of hidden part. It is very obvious when you meet abuelita, she is not like you other grandma at all. >> No. >> And so there’s this whole business of kind of discovering and connecting back with that and finding out what that is.  (Music) My mother is from El Salvador and my father is from Granger Washington, and I was born in the city of Topenish which is actually an Indian Reservation in Washington State. My mom and dad divorced early. I was five. So just the way that that all panned out, I was raised with my dad. The Carpenter side of the family is very family oriented but my sister and I would stick out because we were the only ones in this Anglo family that had this melanin in us so we were brown and I even remember stories about when I born and the nurses, they thought that I was a cute little baby but they called me Charlie Brown because I was different in that regard from the other Carpenters. In El Salvador common street food is the papusas with pertito and that is just something that my dad always —- we had the smell and the food and the people was very comforting and familiar and so it is kind of cool that I always had that kind of touch- down with my culture. It was the one thing I had that I felt I could connect with. What breaks the spell is that people, the minute, naturally they see me and the start engaging with me in Spanish and I can’t talk back and it is a very frustrating thing. It’s frustrating for two reasons, one, I am a little disappointed in myself that I can’t talk back and so I feel like I am letting myself down a little bit and then the other thing is the look on the faces of the people engaging me, like, why don’t you know Spanish? You look like you should know this.

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2 replies
    DAWN BELLO says:

    This breaks my heart. My father wanted us SO bad, to assimilate, so that we would not experience the bias and pain that he did, when moving to the states from Puerto Rico, that we were not permitted to speak Spanish, even though we lived in an Hispanic community in the Bronx. He went so far as to change his name from Luis to Louis and he taught us to pronounce our family name as “Bell-oh”, not “Beh-yoh.” All my cousins, uncles and aunts speak Spanish. Abuelita refused to speak English and the little Spanish I speak, I learned from her. But because I can’t speak Spanish, I feel like such a disappointment. I feel like… a liar. An imposter. And now I can’t teach our language to my children and it hurts them. We have the dance, the music, the food.. the BLOOD… but not the language.

  2. Hazel Hoffman
    Hazel Hoffman says:

    I grew up with my mother’s family, other than Myself, my brother Daniel, and my double first cousins Gloria and Glenn. I never met another Mexican until we moved back to California when I was in sixth grade. I remember being shocked to walk into my class and seeing so many others who had my skin tones that weren’t Black. Until that moment I had assumed I was black Amy Mother didn’t want to tell me. I never found a way to feel like I belonged, I was to white for the mexican kids and to Mexican the white kids. At school they couldn’t understand why I didn’t speak or understand the language or eat the foods, at home I wasn’t allowed to acknowledge that part of myself.

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