Home / Various and Sundry / Living in Mexico / Hey, I’m famous!

Hey, I’m famous!

No not really, but I got quoted on Viva!Vercruz! To understand what I’m talking about, please read this post . Basically it is about what I call Speaking Spanish while Gringo. Wildbill said that a very similar thing happened to him in Japan. If he wanted to talk to someone new, it was easier to start speaking from a position where the listener couldn’t see him. If they saw him first, then no matter what, they had difficulty understanding his Japanese.

It’s all about expectations, someone who is inexperienced sees an Anglo face and assumes that they don’t speak Spanish. I think that is why comadre (with the world’s worst Spanish) gets understood, they don’t expect her to speak good Spanish, she doesn’t and so they get into charade mode and everyone has a good time guessing what she wants.

It doesn’t happen to me, I have something else happen to me, since I am Hispanic and I came here speaking Spanish. I don’t exactly have an American accent, I don’t have a Cuban one either, but I speak very good Spanish unless the word is originally an English one, then I pronounce it in English. For example, I say Cal ah for knee ah, not Cally for nya, for California. Sometimes, people do a double take, asking where I am from originally, what they will also do is ask a sort of a half question/ half statement “you aren’t from here are you?”

When Son first came and was studying in the Prepa, he found out that the kids thought that maybe he was retarded (or an idiot savant LOL) because he is obviously of latin descent, but had problems expressing himself at first. Also he had ear buds for his Ipod, so they wondered if maybe he was deaf, which in their unsophisticated thoughts goes hand in hand with retardation. It didn’t occur to anyone in administration to introduce him or to explain that he was an extranjero and just learning to speak the language. Even most of his teachers didn’t know! Which is weird, but that is for another post some other time. Eventually, he learned to speak great unaccented Spanish, so he stopped having that problem. He also had the reverse happen to him, tourists would ask him if he spoke English and of course, he does. At first, when they would compliment him on his English he would answer, “I am from California” but that would lead to more questions, so eventually he would just say “I lived in the USA for awhile or I studied English in school” both true statements.

One of the funny things that happens to me is sometimes I can’t remember a word, something that I should know. It usually happens to me at the fabric store, where I describe what I want and what it does. I couldn’t remember the word for snap fasteners once, and another time it was safety pins. I can see the clerk getting more and more puzzled until the “you aren’t from around here” comment comes out. I think they are hoping that is that answer because otherwise they don’t know what to think.

About Theresa Diaz Gray

Born in New York City, I grew up in California, and have lived in 3 countries and 6 states. I'm a first generation Cuban-American who lives in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. I'm committed to living an abundant and creative life and helping others do so too through DIY!


  1. Hi Sandy,I “took” Spanish from 6th grade until my freshman year in High School, my sophomore year I took Latin. Then I took Spanish in college.
    I remember sitting in the lunch room with several people including Liz Litov and Susan Ichihana, and we were talking about speaking foreign languages, and Liz said that she spoke Lithuanian and Susan spoke Japanese and I piped up that I spoke Spanish. They said “Everyone speaks Spanish!” and I remember whining “but I really SPEAK Spanish”.

  2. You are funny!!
    Personally, I admire anyone who speaks more than one language. Growing up, I dont remember if you took any Spanish classes or just sort of tested out. You know how it is, we are all sort of wrapped up in our own selves, and dont pay attention to others. Now that I am older?wiser? I get to wondering about silly little things. Still enjoying your blog very much, especially after a day of working with Mexican immigrant kids. Gotta love them! Actually , I do.
    Thanks for your blog, Sandy

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