I teeter between two worlds.
By day, I’m your typical acculturated 30-something. A die-hard fan of “Sex and the City” who goes goo goo gaga for Tiffanys & Co., and savors a daily dose of vanilla latte. In many ways – pura gringa.
At night, I go to a multi generational home - one that hasn’t changed much since I was born. I was raised by my abuelo and abuela ever since my mom left the tiny country of El Salvador in search of the big American Dream. I watch “Jose Luis sin Censura,” eat platanos con crema y frijoles, and have heard “Tiempo de Vals” by Chayanne at more quinceañeras than I can count. (Don’t get me started on this one). I’m a fiery Latina – a member of a minority that will one day be the majority.
Today, I can honestly say that I’m a better person having embraced both cultures, and I wave both flags with pride. The marriage of the Salvadoran/American cultures makes me who I am today: Angelina (Angie) Valencia-Martinez, a professional. A happy wife and proud mamacita who values family and tradition more than anything in the world. A bilingual acculturated Latina who can switch from one world to the other – in both my personal and professional lives. This has had its advantages. Advantages I intend to pass along to my son – Frank.
Everyone talks about leaving a footprint, a mark in the world. Well, Frank Adam Martinez born on 2-7-07 is mine. He is a happy-go-lucky toddler who loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, soccer, and music. He lives in my two worlds too. And I’m raising him to be bilingual.
While I’m at work, Abuela Maria and Abuelo Chico talk to Frank in our native tongue: español. When they go out for walks, they point out the “avion,” plane, “ardillas,” squirrels, and “gato,” cat. Every day, I watch him have long conversations with abuelo and abuela, and I beam.
But when Frank talks to his daddy or me, he speaks English, usually in the form of “I want this!”
There are some clear benefits to Frank being bilingual: According to the Multilingual Children’s Association, multilingualism has been proven to help children develop superior reading and writing skills. Multilingual children also tend to have over-all better analytical, social, and academic skills than their monolingual peers. Good reasons to raise him bilingual. But then there’s the part about opportunity.
For me, being a bilingual journalist turned PR practitioner has opened twice as many doors as being a monolingual one would ever. I want the same opportunities for my son. President Frank Martinez? Why not?
When I graduated from California State University Northridge, I was employed by the Ventura County Star newspaper and also wrote for their Spanish publication, Mi Estrella. When I decided to cross over to public relations, I had the option of working at a firm in the general market sector or one that handled Hispanic PR. It’s nice to know there are options.
For more than a year, I’ve worked at RLPR developing programs in both English and Spanish. One minute I’m facilitating a TV segment with a Spanish speaker at Univision, the next at an ABC station. During my tenure here, I’ve met telenovela actor Juan Soler, boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao, and State Superintendent Jack O’Connell – a big deal to me since I’m a news junkie.
So today, as I sit comfortably in my desk I think back to the times when I used to help my mom clean other people’s houses for a living. She would always stress the importance of an education and how far it would one day take me. Still she urged me to never forget where I came from because that is who I am: una Latina con orgullo.
Gracias mamá por no dejarme que olvide de dónde vengo. That is a task I plan to carry on with my son.
How do you think raising your child to be bilingual makes a difference?