Gloria Anzaldua

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how to tame a wild tongue
  5 ow to Tame a Wild Tongue We're going to have to comrol your tongue, the dentist says, pulling om all the metal from my momh. Silver bits plop and tinkle into the basin. y mouth is a motherlode. The dentist is cleaning out my roots I get a whiff of the stench when I gasp. I can't cap that tooth yet, you're still draining, he says. We're going to have to do something about your tongue, I hear the anger rising in his voice. y tongue keeps pushing out the wads of cotton, pushing back the drills, the long thin needles. 'Tve never seen anything as strong or as stubborn, he says. And I think, how do you tame a wi[ci tongue, train it to be quiet, how do you bridle and saddle it? How do you make it lie down? Who is to say that robbing a people of its language is less violent than war? Ray Gwyn Smith   I remember being caught speaking Spanish at recess-that was good for three licks on the knuckles with a sharp ruler. I remember being sent to the comer of the classroom for talking back to the Anglo teacher when all I was trying to do was tell her how to pronounce my name. f you want to be American,. speak 'American.' f you don't like it, go back to Mexico where you belong. I want you to speak English. Pa haltar b uen trabajo tiener que s aber h.ablar et ingles bien. uevate toda tu educaci6n ri  54 How to Tame a Wild Tongue todavia hab/as ingtes con un 'accem,' my mother would say, mortified that I spoke English like a Mexican At Pan American University, I, and all Chicano smdems were reguiredto take two speech classes. Their purpose: to get rid of our accents. Attacks on one's £orm of expression with the intem to censor are a violation of the First Amendment. Et Angto con cara de inocente nos arranc6 la tengua. Wild tongues can t be tamed, they can only be cut out. Overcoming the Trad:iti.on of Silence Ahogadas, escuP'imos el oscum. Peleando con nuestra propia sombra el silencio nossepulta. En boca cerrada no entran mosca.J. Flies don t emer.a dosed mouth is a saying I kept hearing when I wa.s a child. Ser habladora was to be a gossip and a liar., to talk too much. Mucha-chitas bien criadas, wen-bred girls don t answer bade Es una latta de respeto to talk back to one's mother or father. I remember one of the sins I'd recite to the priest in the confession box the few times I wem to confession: talking back to my mother, habtar pa' tr as, repelar. Hocicona, repelona, chismosa, having a big momh,. questioning, carrying tales are aU signs of being mal cNada. In my culture they are all words that are derogatory if applied to women-I ve never heard them applied to men. The first time I hea.rd two women, a Puerto Rican and a Cuban, say the word nosotras,  I was shocked. ] had not known the word existed. Chicanas use nowtro whether we're male or female. We are robbed of our female being by the masculine pImaJ. language is a male discollfse. And our tongues have become dry the wilderness has dried am our tongues and we have forgotten speech. -Irena Klepfis.z 2 Even our own people, other Spanish speakers nos quieren poner canda,dor en la boca. They would hold us back with their bag of regtas de academia. 55 How to Tame a Wild Tongue ye como ladra: ellenguaje de la Iro1ttera Quien tiene boca .re equivoca -Mexican saying Po,cho, cuhural traitor, you'ce speaking the oppressor's language by speaking English, you're ruining the Spanish language, have been accused by various Latinos and Latinas. Chicano Spanish is considered by the purist and by most Latinos deficient, a mlltilation o Spanish BIlt Chicano Spanish is a border tongue which developed naturally. Change, evo/u.cion,. enriquecimiento de p·alabras nuevas par invenci6n 0 adop,cion have created variants of Chicano Spanish, un nuevo lenguaje. Un lenguaje que corre sponde a un modo de vivir. Chicarw Spanish is not incorrect, it is a Hving language For a people who are neither Spanish nor live in a country in which Spanish is the first language; for a people who liv,e in a country in which English is the reigning tongue bllt who are not Anglo; for a people who cannot entirely identify with either standard (formal, CastiUian) Spanish nor standard English, what recourse is left to them but to create theic own language? A language whi·ch they can connect theic identity to, one capable of communicating the realities and values true to themselves-a language with terms that are neither espaiiol ni ingles, but both. We speak a patois, a forked tongue, a variation of two languages. Chicano Spanish s r~ out of the Chicanos' need to identify ourselves as a distinct peop],e. We needed a language with which we could cillllmunicare wirb olllrselyes. .jL~cret language. For some of us, language is a homeland doser than the Southwest-for many Chicanos today live in the Midwest and the East. And because we are a complex,. heterogeneous people, we speak many languages. Some of the languages we speak are: 1. Standard Englis h 2. Working class and slang English 3. Standard Spanish 4. Standard Mexican Spanish 5. North Mexican Spanish dialect 6. Chica no Spanish (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California have regional variations) 7. Tex-Mex 8 Pachuco (caUed c.a/6)  56 How to Tame a Wild Ton,gue My home tongues are the languages I speak with my sister and bcothers, with my friends. They are the last five listed with 6 and 7 being dosest to my heart. From school, the media and job situations, I've picked up standard and working class English. From Mamagrande Locha and from reading Spanish and Mexican literature, I've picked up Standard Spanish and Standard Mexican Spanish. From tos recien llegados, Mexican immigrants, and braceros, learned the North Mexican dialect. With Mexi~ cans rfl try to speak either Standard Mexican Spanish or the North Mexican diaIect. From my parents and Chicanos living in the Valley, picked up Chicano Texas Spanish, and speak it with my mom, younger brother (who married a Mexican and who rarely mixes Spanish with English), aunts and older relatives. With Chicanas from Nuevo Mexico or Arizona will speak Chicano Spanish a Httle, but often they don t understand what I m saying. With most California Chicanas speak entirely in English (unless] forget). When first moved to San Francisco, I'd rattle off something in Spanish, uni memionaHy embarrassing them. Often it is only with another Chicanateiana that can talk freely. Words distorted by English are known as anglicisms or p'ochismos. The pocho is an anglicized Mexican or American of Mexican srcin who speaks Spanish with an accent characteristic of North Americans and who distorts and reconstructs the language according to the influence of EngHsh. 3 Tex-Mex, or Spanglish, comes most naturally to me., I may switch back and forth from English to Spanish in the same sentence or in the same word. With my sister and my brother Nune and with Chicano telano contemporaries I speak in Tex-Mex From kids and peop]e my own age I picked up Pachuco. Pachuco (the language of the zoot suiters) is a language of rebellion, both against Standard Spanish and Standard English t is a secret language. Adults of the culture and outsiders cannm understand it. t is made up of slang words from both English and Spanish. Ruca means girl or woman, vato means guy or dude, chate means no, simon means yes, churro is sure, talk is periquiar, pigionear means petting, que gacho means how nerdy, ponte aguila means watch out, death is called la pelona Through lack of practice and not having others who can speak it, I've lost most of the Pachuco tongue. 57 How to Tame a Wild Tongue Chicano Spanish Chicanos, after 250 years of Spanish/ Anglo colonization have devdoped significant differences in the Spanish we speak. We coHapse two adjla,cenr vowels into a single syllabJ.e and sometimes shift the suess in certain words such as maiz/maiz cohete/ ,uete. We leave out certain consonants when they appear between vowels: lado/lao. mojado/mojao. Chicanos from South Texas pronounce f asj as injue (fue). Chicanos use archaisms, words that are no longer in the Spanish language,. words that have been evo,]ved out. We say semos,. truje, haiga, ansina, and naiden. We retain the archaic j, as inlalar, that derives from an earher h, (the French halaror the Germanic halo : w~ich was lost to standard Spanish in the 16th century), but whIch IS s:111 ,found in several regional dialects such as the one spok,en n South Texas (Due to geography,. Chicanos from the Va~ley of South Texas were cut off linguistically from other Spamsh speakers. We tend to use words that the Spaniards brought over from Medieval Spain. The majority of the Spanish coloniz·ers in Mex ico and the Southwest came from Extremadura- Hernan Cort,es was one of them-and Andaluda. Andalucians pronounoe II like a), and their d's tend to be absorbed by ~djacem vow~ls tir:ado becomes tirao. They brought el tenguaje popular, dzalectos y regionalismos 4) . Chicanos and other Spanish speakers also shIft It to y and z to S.5 We leave out initial syllables, saying tar for estar, to} for esto},. hora for ahora (cubanos and p.uertorriquenos a1.so leave out initial letters of some words.) We also leave out the fmal syUable such as pa for para. The intervocalic}, the II as in tortilta, ella . bot ella, gets replaced by .torti.a or tort.iya, ea bo.te.a. We add an additional syllable at the beginning of certain words: atocar. or tocar, agastar for gast.ar. Sometimes we'll say lavast: las vactjas, other times lavates (substituting the ates verb endings for the aSle . . We use anglicisms, words borrowed from En~lrsh bola from ball, carpet,a from (arpet, machina de lavar (mstead of lavadora) from washing machine. Tex-Mex argot, create lJ .by adding a Spanish sound at the beginning or end oEan E.nghsh word such as cookiar for cook, watchar for watch, p.arktar ~or park, and rapiar for rape, is the result of the pressures on Spanish speakers to adapt to English.. e don t use the word vosatros/as Gr ItS accompanymg verb form. We don t say claro (to mean yes), imagin.ate., or me  58 How to Tame a Wild Tongue emociona,. unless we picked up Spanish from Latinas, om of a book, or in a classroom. Other Spanish-speaking groups are going through the same, or similar, development in their Spanish. Linguistic TerrOl'ism Des/enguadaJ. SomoJ los del e.Jpafiol deficiente. We are your linguistic nightmare, your linguistic aberration, your linguistic mestisaje, the subject of your bur/a. Because we speak with tongues of fir,e we are culmrally crucifi,ed. Racially, culturally andlinguisticallYJOmos huerfanos we speak an orphan tongue. Chicanas who grew up speaking Chicano Spanish have imemalized the belief that we speak poor Spanish. It is illegitimate, a bastard languag,e. And because we internalize how our language has been used against us by the dominant culture, we use our language differences against each other. Chicana feminists often skirt around each other with suspi don and hesitation. FOI: the longest time I couldn't figure it out. Then it dawned on me. To be dose to another Chicana is like looking into the mirror. We are afraid of what we'll see there. Pena Shame. Low estimation of self. In childhood we are told that our language is wrong. Repeated attacks on our nativ,e tongue diminish our sense of self. The attacks continue through out our lives. Chicanas feel uncomfortable talking in Spanish to Ladnas, afraid of their censur,e. Their language was not outlawed in their countries They had a whole lifetime of being immersed in their native tongue; generations, centuries in which Spanish was a first languag,e, taught in school, heard on radio and TV, and read in the newspaper. f a person, Chicana or Latina, has a low estimation of my native tongue,. she also has a low estimation of me. Often with mexicanas y latinas we'll speak English as a nemrallanguage. Even among Chicanas we tend to speak English at parties or .conferences. Yet, at the same time, we're afraid the other will think we're agringadas because we don t speak Chicano Spanish. We oppress each other trying to out-Chicano each other, vying to be the real Chicanas, to speak like Chicanos Ther,e is no one Chicano language just as there is no one Chicano experience. A 59 How to Tame a Wild Tongue monolingual Chicana whose first language is English or Spanish is just as much a Chicana as one who speaks several variants of Spanish A Chicana from Michigan or Chicago or Detroit is jlu5t as much a Chicana as one from the Southwest. Chicano Spanish is as diverse linguisticaUy as it is regionally. By the end of this century, Spanish speakers will comprise the biggest minority group in the U.S., a country where students in high schools and colleges are encouraged to take French classes because French is considered more cultured. But for a language to remain alive it must be used 6 By the end of this century English, and not Spanish, will be the mother tongue of most Chicanos and Latinos. So,. if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity-I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself. Until I can accept as legitimate Chicano Texas Spanish, Tex-Mex and all the other languages 1 speak, I cannot accept the I.egitimacy of myself. Until I am free to write biling;u aUy and to switch codes without having always to translate, whIle I still have to speak English or Spanish when I would rather speak SpangJish, and as long as have to accommodat,e the English speakers rather than having them accommodate me, my tongue wi[ be illegitimate. will no longer be made to f'eel ashamed of eXlstmg. I wdl have my voice: Indian, Spanish,. white. I will have my serpent's tongue-my woman's voice, my sexual voice, my poet's voice ~ wi~eJ he: rugiriQ Q 9Lsjle;Q£~: My fingers move sly against your palm Like women everywhere, we speak in code -Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz? Vistas, c(}rridos, JI comida: My Native Tongue In the 1960s, 1 read my first Chicano novel. t was City of Night by John Rechy,. a gay Texan, son of a Scottish fa.ther and a Mexican mother. For days I walked around in stunned amaze ment that a Chicano could write and could get published. When [ read I Am Joaquin 8 [ was surprised to see a bilingual book by a Chicano in print. When I saw poetry written in Tex-Mex for the
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