Hola, como esta usted? Donde esta la biblioteca? Everyone who took high school Spanish knows those phrases. They are probably all they recognize from their teen-age efforts to learn one the three most-spoken languages in the world.
Almost everyone knows how to order tacos, fajitas and jalapenos; almost everyone can pronounce San Francisco, San Diego, or El Paso or San Antonio; almost everyone can pronounce Antonio Banderas’ name.
Our politicians and their strategists are described sometimes as crafty and savvy. Savvy, of curse, comes from the Spanish verb saber, to know.
Well, we now know (sabemos) that the campaign to make English the official language of the United States has flopped. Only a fringe lobby group toils for that goal. It includes the usual suspects: John Tanton, founder of U.S. English, and the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR) and their followers.
According to Internal Revenue Service filings, Tanton has raised millions for anti-Hispanic causes from the Pioneer Fund, a nonprofit group founded by the same men who founded the American Nazi Party in the 1930s and sponsored immigration restriction bills of 1922-23. These bills kept Jewish and Italian immigrants out of America and organized the Border Patrol to stop Mexicans at the border.
Despite the English-only campaign and despite the irritated monolingual Americans, the country is in the process of adopting Spanish as an unofficial second language. This is not limited to Spanish-speaking immigrants or their American-born children. Many non-Hispanic Americans take Spanish lessons in order to work with Spanish-speaking workers or to work in businesses exporting goods and services to Latin America’s almost 400-million Spanish-speaking customers.
Certainly, the huge influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants has influenced the spread of Spanish throughout the country. Nonetheless, I believe it is the spread of Mexican food that has most influenced Spanish usage in recent years. Almost every supermarket in urban areas has Hispanic food sections, meaning, of course, Mexican foods.
For the benefit of those fringe English-only people, here are some mainstream American words — the whole enchilada. It may be that I’m full of beans being a beaner, or as more sophisticated people say, a frijolero. It may be that I am so wrong I should be hauled off to the hoosegow or, in real Spanish, juzgado or to the calaboose, which comes from the Spanish calobozo, jail.
It used to be only the American elite or America’s newest immigrants who spoke anything other than English. The elite spoke French. The immigrants spoke their native languages until they learned English — if they ever did. Few did. Their children did. A few Yiddish words made it into mainstream America, but only a few. So did some French and German words, but not many.
Will Spanish ever overtake English in everyday America? No. Will Spanish enrich American English? Sure. Spanish is becoming America’s second language? How did cowboy culture become such a driving force? Cowboy is a direct translation of the Spanish word for men who ride herd on cattle — vaquero, which comes from the Spanish word for cow, vaca.
Spanish usage by Americans isn’t even a recent occurrence. It goes back to the very birth of the country.
Editor’s Note: re-posted with author’s permission – original link.
Raoul Lowery Contreras (1941) was born in Mexico, raised in the USA. Former U.S. Marine, athlete, Dean’s List at San Diego State. Professional political consultant and California Republican Party official (1963-65)…Television news commentator, radio talk show host…published Op-Ed writer (1988 to present)…author of 12 books (as of 1-05-12). His books are available at Amazon.com