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Showing posts from February, 2005

My Life as a Reformed Gringo

This kicked off my series of essays on The Back Word, a website of writing about Texas. The folk who ran it lost interest and took down all the pages. Fortunately, I have all the Word files, and this is the first of four published there:


For most parents, a child's exposure to a foreign language is mildly interesting. But for me, the news that my son Sam started studying Spanish this fall in the fifth grade stirs strong emotions. Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s as part of the gringo minority in the town of Mission, in deep South Texas-- pop. 13,000, Spanish wasn't just a language. It marked the fault line that divided two cultures, Anglo and Hispanic.

Young gringos learned early that we could treat the Spanish language--and Hispanic culture--with indifference, if not outright hostility. When I was in the third grade, the teacher asked a new student, Frank, to read in the front of the class. A migrant or perhaps a new arrival from Mexico, Frank didn't speak English. He sto…