NPR

Can You Lose A Language You Never Knew?

Each year, a smaller proportion of Latinos in the United States speaks Spanish. But for many, the language is still a fundamental marker of their identity.
Olvera Street, a historic Mexican marketplace in downtown Los Angeles. 1935. Source: Smith Collection/Gado

I grew up a monolingual Mexican-American by accident.

My father was often away for weeks at a time, driving 18-wheeler trucks importing and exporting goods throughout the Southwest. My mother worked an office job, and had to juggle her career, finishing her degree and raising two young children. With both parents working full time, this left my brother and me in a bit of a free-fall.

But when I was around four, help arrived. My aunt Nena moved from Mexico to the U.S. — the plan was for her to live with our family and take care of my brother and me while settling into life in Los Angeles.

At the

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