Well, not fluently. I had three years of Spanish instruction in high school, and heard it off and on growing up, but I can't really "speak" it. I used to blame my mother for this; she's Tejana, but is one of those who feels "Cuando in los Estados Unidos, hable ingles" (When in the US, speak English), so she never talked with us in Spanish. Now I know it was just because I allowed myself to be so "comfortable" with English that I never worked towards being bilingual. I could get along growing up in the suburbs of Phoenix without speaking Spanish, so I didn't bother.
Back in 1994, my brother and I realized Spanish-language networks like Univision could give us something the English-language stations weren't giving at the time. This was during the World Cup, when the main networks would still interrupt the game during World Cup soccer matches to show commercials. That bothered us; why not show the full game? We soon realized you could see the full game, with the ads scrolled on the bottom, by watching Univision. We couldn't understand much of the action, but their coverage made the games much more enjoyable. (Anyone who's seen a game announced by the master, Andres Cantor, can agree, I'm betting. :) )
Fast forward to today. A week after I started encouraging my friends to boycott the state of my birth, hundreds of thousands are in downtown LA right now protesting the racist anti-immigrant bill SB 1070. I fell ill two days ago, and am still recovering, or I'd be there right now with them. I even pulled out my brother's graduation gift to me after undergrad: A picture of Geronimo and colleagues inside an outline of Arizona with the caption "Homeland Security: Protecting the Homeland since 1492."
Instead I'm home watching the coverage of this historic march and event, as hundreds of thousands of Americans raise their banners and flags and celebrate this coming together that is the US.
That's being ignored on the local CBS station.
And the independent station.
It's sad that golf, baseball, hockey, and racing are seen as "more important" to the viewers in the LA area than this march. Well, at least one network is covering it live, and hasn't had one commercial since I tuned in almost an hour ago.
I usually understand two or three words a sentence, and by the time I identify what the word means the reporter has said four of five more that I've missed. That's the extent of my lack of Spanish comprehension.
So why do I watch, when I don't understand the language? Because you don't need the language to understand the passion, the anger at racism, the pride in America. The seas of people spending this beautiful Saturday in Southern California not on the beach soaking up the sun, not doing the 6 or 7 things we always put off for the weekend, but marching as one down Broadway toward the Los Angeles City Hall.
I was "lucky" enough to look like my Irish-American father, while my brother looks like my mother. Is "looking foreign" the only reason my mother has been followed by security in the mall, or my brother's been asked for his green card, while my dad and I have never been harassed by Arizona police? Maybe not, but it's hard to see how the color of our skin hasn't been the major difference in how we're treated. How many of these Americans marching today have experienced the same thing, whether as my brother (the harassed) or me, watching people I've known all my life be questioned on whether they "belong"?
I can't speak Spanish, but I know what American sounds like and looks like. Those sights and sounds are on Univision right now in the LA area.