I love the sound of New Mexico Spanish. For me, it’s like a warm blanket.
The sound of it reminds me of my grandmother's tiny kitchen up north. She can ramble on, mixing Spanish words with English with ease as her hands turn white with flour over the stove. Then, of course, there's the crackling AM radio station with barely audible Spanish corridos about heartbreak and death, and the dusty dog slobbering all over the screen door just waiting to devour our leftovers, no matter how hot the chile.
I spent my childhood summers with my grandparents in their modest home up north in San Jose
, a small village just below Glorieta Mesa, 30 miles east of Santa Fe.
I learned how to swim in the Pecos, collected red dirt in my sneakers, spent days throwing rocks at birds and rabbits, and rode around dangerously in the beds of rusty pickups while picking up words like ¿Que bruto no?
When I took a Spanish 101 test in seventh grade back at my old home in Reno, I used what I learned in my grandmother’s kitchen, expecting to ace it. I failed miserably.
doesn’t mean truck.
doesn’t mean shorts.
At least that’s what I was told by my Spanish teacher who always proudly proclaimed he studied in Spain. I was wrong
and needed to relearn he said.
In high school and college I learned textbook Spanish during cold classroom lectures about how to use vosotros
and how to speak Spanish correctly
Today I still prefer New Mexico Spanglish with its drawn out accents and hybrid words mixed into run-on sentences like:
Vamo pa’ ya, next to the river.
Tengo mi troca that I bought in Albuquerque, but the windshield is cracked, y no hay gas for the ride home.
¿Que te dijo? ¡Eeeee hooo laaaaaa! I can’t believe she would say such a thing. ¡Entremetira!
Aqui ‘sta tu sneakers that you left outside. Check ‘em for bugs.
Muchacho, grab those palitos so we can make a fire. Eeeee, ‘sta frio. ¡Que bruto!
My grandma still lives in that house about two hours from my place in Albuquerque.
Often, working and living in the city, it feels as if my grandmother's kitchen is a million miles away.
But thanks to this Albuquerque McDonald’s
, I find a piece of it....almost.
Almost every morning, I stop in this McDonald's and pick up a coffee. I could go through the drive-thru, but I walk inside so I can listen to a group of lively, gray haired elderly men that are always there.
There’s always six or seven of them, sitting around the tables with their coffees. Some are dressed in perfectly pressed polyester pants, brightly colored net hats, and worn out windbreakers advertising long out-of-business mechanic shops. Their outfits likely put together in the morning without thought or concern of style, just like their Spanglish banter. It’s nearly identical to what I learned in San Jose.
For the first time this morning, I introduced myself, confessing with some embarrassment I’ve been enjoying their conversations in the mornings for the past several years years. I sat down with them, listened, and laughed while they talked in Spanglish about land grants, the pinche
weather, and their idea of language.
They told me they are often corrected by people from Mexico. I smiled, understanding Spanish here in New Mexico is neither right or wrong...it's correct by itself.There’s even a dictionary.
I left their table, feeling very young as if I had some trouble to get into. And I did see a pick-up truck in the parking lot with a broken windshield. I felt like jumping in the back and going pa’ un ride.