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

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR3 min read
What We Know About The Attack On Saudi Oil Facilities
The U.S. and Saudi Arabia claim Iran is behind the attack. Iran denies involvement. Here's what the physical evidence shows.
NPR2 min readScience
Mass Protests In Australia Kick Off Global Climate Strike Ahead Of U.N. Summit
The rallies in Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere drew tens of thousands of people. Similar protests were expected across the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and elsewhere.
NPR3 min readScience
Global Youth Climate Strike Expected To Draw Large Crowds
Strike organizers are calling on their fellow young people to skip school Friday and rally to demand greater action against climate change.