I sit down at my computer and it’s typey typey typey click click click just like any other day because typey³ click³ is a go-to move of mine to avoid confronting my monsters, i.e. my feelings. This is a fine Coping Strategy until the typing and the clicking got me following the White Rabbit down to Wonderland.

Today my Wonderland is this god damned tweet. It is by this Chicana poet I follow and she said “not everyone’s a poet.” My hackles jump up and I bare my teeth. I am taking this so personally. I don’t wanna take away anything from Real Poets because it’s an art form and that shit is hard. Meter? Rhyme? Not rhyme? Feelings? But shouldn’t we be open to the possibility that everyone’s got something to say and it may come out as a poem and perhaps it’s a bad one but who gets to say?

I don’t even want to write a poem! How does that saying go? I disagree with your desire to write a poem, but I will defend to death your right to write it?

If I’m being real with myself, I know I’m not upset about the gatekeeping poetry part. I’m upset because she’s gatekeeping and she’s Chicana. In the intersection of the Venn Diagram of “Gatekeepers” and “Chicanas” you get Gatekeeping Chicanas™, and there in that ugly and dark space is my monster.

What makes a Chicana: a guide

  1. Honestly, fuck if I know.

Like water, identity can appear to be contained. But how contained is it, really? I’m comfortable with my Chicana identity when it’s in a sippy cup, but when it’s in a bathtub it’s just leaky and surrounded by mildew. Containment makes something understandable, perhaps, but it’s limiting understanding to one context. My life is bigger than a sippy cup.

Maybe I’m not being completely fair, so I’ll back up and I’ll reconsider my monster for honesty’s sake. Because sometimes when you look at your monster straight in the teeth you don’t notice that it has three eyes instead of two because you’re so focused on those teeth and how they might feel digging into your bare neck and how you absolutely, without a doubt, do not want those teeth to do that.

When I zoom out I can see that my real monster has three eyes instead of two. My real monster is Spanish.

“What did Spanish ever do to you?” Well. Nothing. But also, everything.

I have a doctorate in linguistics, which is a fancy way of saying I have a PhD in Why-Don’t-I-Speak-Spanish? with a minor in This-Isn’t-Fair studies. I got up every day for years to learn about language because I thought the only way to tame a monster was to learn more about it.

I learned and I learned, and fuck if I didn’t learn some more.

How-to grow a language: a guide

  1. Miraculously, the seed is already planted. Don’t ask how. Sometimes nature must keep her secrets.

  2. Water daily.

  3. Admire.

I’m obviously not above anthropomorphizing a language or mixing metaphors, but it’s true that language is a living thing. It’s constantly shifting and growing and consuming and regurgitating, not unlike a baby bird who needs its caregiver to feed it until it’s consumed enough to fly out on its own.

But my Spanish was like an abandoned baby bird who watched all the other baby birds being fed worms and all I could do was hunger for those wretched/retchéd worms that I wasn’t being fed.

Is Spanish owed to me? That depends on when you ask. If you ask me on Tuesday I will say that the only thing owed to anyone is respect. On Friday, I’ll tell you that it’s been real goddamn disrespectful that my Spanish is just a tangle of yarn stuffed in my desk.

It’s funny. I spent five years getting a doctorate in Why-Don’t-I-Speak-Spanish when I could have been learning Spanish.


What do you do when your shoulders are heavy from lifting your shame from its resting place every morning? Your shame used to walk on its own two legs, but even shame tires.  

So how could I have made time to learn Spanish when I was so tired from being ashamed that I didn’t speak Spanish?

How-to grow Spanish in the U.S.: a guide

  1. Do not be Chicanx or Latinx.

  2. Rinse and repeat.

I will tell you what school never could: Spanish isn’t meant for immigrants’ children or their children’s children, no, not in this land of Bald Eagles and bald racism.

Have you ever followed a politician into a “bilingual” “education” class? “Wow. It’s sure great that these children [sic] are learning Spanish when we consider today’s global market.” They can’t say “Anglo children” out loud. It’s just gauche.

The money for that “bilingual” “education” class actually comes from the How-Can-My-Kid-Benefit fund, 100% of which is earmarked for kids with excellent coverage.

Being Latinx is a pre-existing condition. Coverage denied.

For us, there is nothing better in this global market than embracing English-only.

Non-Latinx person: “Your English is so good. That’s essential to get ahead in the U.S.”

But you will be asked why you don’t speak Spanish, so have a good answer ready.

Non-Latinx person: “Why didn’t you learn Spanish when you had the chance?”

Don’t get whiplash.

But it’s not just them. Sometimes other Chicanas say to me that Spanish is the price to be paid for entrance. But I’m beginning to see that is just as bullshit as a Ticketmaster Convenience Fee.

What makes a Chicana: an updated guide

  1. Honestly, fuck if I know.

  2. Spanish is irrelevant, though.