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Photo by Kaylee Rodriguez

Spanish was my first language. I remember singing along to Shakira from my car seat and watching El Gordo y La Flaca with my abuelos. I entered Pre-K barely knowing English; in fact, the only thing I knew is that I was different. Like any young learner, I caught on to English quick but quickly abandoned Spanish. It got to the point that I refused to speak it.  When my grandparents spoke to me in Spanish, I stubbornly replied in English, even if it meant ending the conversation.

Then, I visited Cuba when I was eleven years old. I could not help but feel a connection to the country that my grandparents grew up in—the rhythmic beats of the clave, the delicious aroma of café Cubano, the house my father was born in. As I began unearthing my family roots, I realized that one thing was missing for me: Spanish. Yes, I still understood the language and could get by, but when I couldn’t fully communicate with my family in Havana or the people we met, I knew that I would never understand my culture without embracing the Spanish language.

And so, it started. I took Spanish throughout middle school and parts of high school, I begged my abuela to speak to me in Spanish, I began leading activities in Spanish, and I discovered my love for Spanish music and novelas. I would be happy to give recommendations for anyone interested! I developed a deep appreciation for Spanish and understood that knowing just one other language could unlock a whole other world.

Fast forward, and now I am working with Catholic Legal Services. My knowledge of Spanish has been one of the most valuable skills for the work I am doing and has allowed me to create connections with clients. I have translated documents and client meetings and have even had the opportunity to personally call clients.

This upcoming fall, I will be studying abroad in Spain! I am looking forward to the chance to fully immerse myself in the Spanish language and culture, and even exploring the idea of working or living there one day.