Friday, December 25, 2015

Remembering Spanish

I came to America as a small child, speaking only Spanish.  My parents were both fluent in Spanish (my mother was Mexican), but they spoke English in America and I quit speaking Spanish at some point.  I lost the language and can no longer speak Spanish, but I still have a memory of it.  When I was in Pecos, Texas, recently a lady in a  restaurant commented that I was having a conversation in English with the Mexican lady serving the food.  She found it curious that I could understand the serving lady speaking in Spanish and I could answer her in English, which the serving lady understood.

It was nice of the lady passing by to point out how the serving lady and I could communicate even though I did not speak Spanish and she did not speak English.  I did not really think our encounter was unusual, but maybe it was.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Memories of Mexico

I was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. as a child.  My family returned to Mexico for occasional visits while I was young.  The strongest memory I have is of a mural on the side of a building.  We drove a number of times past a building that had a mural covering the side of the building, several stories high, of an angel that carried a rifle and wore two bandoleras full of bullets, crisscrossing the chest.  The wings of the angel of the revolution were made of bayonets instead of feathers.  This made quite an impression on me as a small child.

My mother told me that her parents had to be married in secret.  The Mexican Revolution was going on and priests were hanging from the lamp posts.  The priest had to travel in secrecy to marry them, lest he be captured and hung.

My mother told me that my Abuelito, a veterinarian, was supposed to travel with a group of veterinarians to inspect cattle for hoof and mouth disease.  If cattle were deemed diseased, the whole herd would be destroyed.  My Abuelito was late and the car left without him.  The veterinarians were bushwhacked by peasants and cut to pieces with machetes.  The peasants were afraid of having their cattle destroyed and they fought back against inspections.  I was in stunned disbelief when I heard this story.  I know what machetes can do.  I saw coconuts split in half with machetes while visiting Acapulco.

My mother loved her country and found it hard to give up her Mexican citizenship to become an American, as she eventually did.  My mother told me that during the Mexican-American War, a boy cadet defending Chapultepec Castle against America invaders wrapped the Mexican flag around his body and threw himself off the castle to his death instead of surrendering his nation's flag.

Mexico has had a tough time, fighting the Americans and the French.  I am sure you know that the line in the Marines Hymn about the Halls of Montezuma was about fighting in Mexico, but did you know that one of the most famous defeats of the French Foreign Legion was in Mexico?  That was the Battle of CamarĂ³n.

Mexico is still having tough times, this time from its drug lords.