The Salvadoran and His Son

The Texas Story Project.

Around thirty-eight years ago, my father immigrated from El Salvador at the age of nineteen. He spoke no English, but, because of the diversity in Houston, he quickly became accustomed to Texas. His mother had immigrated a few years before him, so he had a place to stay, and got a job at a gas station. He mainly learned English by talking to customers. Believe me, it was not easy for him to get here. He dealt with a lot back in El Salvador. The war was going on, and all teenagers were in danger. He had to get out of there as soon as he could. He would be part of the student movements against the government, and he faced death in the eye multiple times. He was chased by the army, and took refuge wherever he could.

Twenty-three years after he immigrated, I was born. Even though I have strong Latino blood in me, I speak very little Spanish, and never really have. I spoke a little more when I was younger, like 4 or 5, but I lost it all, and now pretty much speak no Spanish. I did visit El Salvador when I was two years old. I don’t remember that at all but we stayed with my aunt who never immigrated from El Salvador.

My dad is a very unique person. Some people, actually a lot of people, explain him as a bubbly, hilarious, loving, and just fun. Of course, him being my dad, every public place we go he embarrasses me a lot. But I secretly do find him really funny and it is really fun to be with him anywhere I go. You could also say he is the life of a party, and it's true. I think my dad can just make a party get way better. Just his presence helps.

One thing about my dad, he's a huge jokester. Almost any practical joke you can think of, he’s probably tried it on me. Since I’ve lived with him for 14 years, I don’t really fall for them anymore. But he gets all my friends, and they still think he is amazing. He doesn’t give up any opportunity to mess with me. I think that him being a jokester actually helps with him teaching me Spanish. As a joke, at home, he will pretend to not understand me if I speak English, which really annoys me, but pressures me to speak Spanish. I’m not to sure if it’s a prank, but it feels like one.

My dad has a very big family, and they all speak Spanish to each other. The ones I am very close to and see every holiday (my cousins, aunts, and uncles) know I don't speak Spanish well and always speak to me in English. When my dad's cousin died, I met the whole extended family. Some of them don’t speak English, so that was a bit difficult for me because I don’t know Spanish. That’s all they spoke to me so I had to use my dad as a translator.

That's not all the Spanish problems I get. Every Mexican, Salvadoran, or South American restaurants we go to have waiters who speak Spanish, so either my dad pressures me to practice Spanish at those places, or the waiters, seeing my dad, automatically speak Spanish to me and I have pretty much no clue what they are saying. Other times I try to speak Spanish, and then the people I am talking to go on rants in Spanish, and I am clueless.

I don't know what my dad thinks about me not being able to speak Spanish, but he is really supportive and is always trying to help me speak it better. I would guess he is a little sad I can’t speak Spanish, but I know that he is very supportive in helping me learn it.

I really want to speak Spanish. My whole family, my mom, my dad, and even my sister are pressuring me to learn it. They speak Spanish to me, and every chance I get I try to speak it, but I'm just not very good. I’m certainly getting better, and I’m hoping to know a lot more by the summer. I know I won't be fluent, but having my dad helps me in many ways.

Pablo Canizales is a student at St. Catherines Montessori School in Houston. He is very interested in American History, especially the Civil War. He also really enjoys soccer.

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