After San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro delivered the keynote address during the Democratic National Convention last week, part of the conversation afterward revolved around his lack of fluency in Spanish. Yet as a third-generation Texan of Mexican descent, is someone like Castro really expected to be fluent in the language of his immigrant grandmother?
Not so, if you look at the way language evolves across immigrant generations. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, native language fluency drops off with each generation; among Latinos, only one in four among the third generation are fluent in Spanish. A post earlier this week discussed this, as well as whether not being fluent in the language of one's immigrant ancestors makes one any less culturally "authentic" as a member of that group. After all, while language serves as a cultural bridge, there are other aspects of ancestral culture that get passed on.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images News
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro delivers his keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sept. 4, 2012
It's been a week of immigrant stories tied to the 2012 election, starting with the many related by GOP politicos (along with candidate Mitt Romney's son) at the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week. But the one related last night by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina has so far topped them all, in part because of where he placed it in his convention keynote address.
Castro dedicated a large chunk of the beginning of his keynote to the story of his grandmother, who arrived in the U.S. as an illiterate orphan in the early 1920s and made her way in her adopted country. A highlight:
The unlikely journey that brought me here tonight began many miles from this podium. My brother Joaquin and I grew up with my mother Rosie and my grandmother Victoria. My grandmother was an orphan. As a young girl, she had to leave her home in Mexico and move to San Antonio, where some relatives had agreed to take her in.
She never made it past the fourth grade. She had to drop out and start working to help her family. My grandmother spent her whole life working as a maid, a cook and a babysitter, barely scraping by, but still working hard to give my mother, her only child, a chance in life, so that my mother could give my brother and me an even better one.
...By the time my brother and I came along, this incredible woman had taught herself to read and write in both Spanish and English. I can still see her in the room that Joaquin and I shared with her, reading her Agatha Christie novels late into the night.