Two of my grandparents were born in Spain; that makes me 1/8th Hispanic. That’s Hispanic enough for “affirmative action” purposes. When I was a kid, my grandfather spoke to me in Spanish. I speak Spanish- pretty well.
Mexicans that now reside in Las Vegas, have told me that I speak “book Spanish” or Castillan (I had to throw in a Spanish word), which is the Spanish version of the Kings English- just the opposite of what the guests speak on the Maury Povich talk show. Although it is not my intention, because of my dialect, sometimes when I talk to Hispanics in Spanish, they get that same uneasy feeling that an American gets when some Brit uses the phrase “You shan’t mock me”.
Because I speak Spanish, Hispanics consider me one of them, even though I look as if my ancestors sailed over here on the Mayflower fleet, which they did, on my Mother’s side. Ironically, Hispanics say I am “more Latino” than someone who doesn’t speak Spanish, but may look like George Lopez.
But to be intellectually honest, I am not as Hispanic as someone who both looks Latino and speaks Spanish fluently. I would definitely be “out-Hispanicked” by such person and jeered for being a glorafied Gringo. It depends on the origin of the Hispanic to whom I am talking, and the context.
It can be a battle to see who speaks the other’s language first. If I am ordering a Taco at Robertos, I simply need to stick to my guns and keep talking in Spanish and the counter-person will fold and begin speaking in Spanish as well. If the person to whom I am talking is my customer, on the other hand, I fold quickly and begin speaking English. The whole thing is kind of weird.
In the meantime, to escape for just a brief moment, I close my eyes and visualize the beach of So Cal the wisp of the cool ocean breeze, slumped in a flimsy beach chair, under the shade of an umbrella, secretly swigging a Corona.