The words tumbled out fast, no halting. No searching my brain for the right word. No Spanglish. Just rapido, rapido, pan, pan, pan, palabras, palabras, palabras. In my dream I was in full-on Spanish conversation with a Colombian co-worker. It was vivid. Yet now, a few weeks later I cannot recall what I was saying to her, only that in those first waking minutes, I could not stop smiling. I had a dream in Spanish. Finally.
I am not sure when it had last happened. Maybe 40-plus years ago, when I was four or five, before I learned to speak English. Guau. I told everyone: I dreamed in Spanish! I dreamed in Spanish! I imagine they thought me un poco loca, because why wouldn’t I dream in Spanish? I’m a Spanish-speaker, after all. But, I never dreamed in Spanish. My only Spanish reflex: Cursing.
In January, when I went to work for a local Latino nonprofit, I found myself confronted with the shocking truth that my Spanish is less-than fluent. I forgot words, I had to think before I said something or ask for the proper translation. Professionally, one cannot get away with saying “esa cosa” for everything one does not know. It was a serious blow to my self-image as a bilingual Spanish and English speaker. I recalled all those times I visited family in Miami and they would say things like “¿Que te pasa, se te esta olvidando el español?” It always took a few days to get back into the swing of the fast-talking Cuban Spanish I grew up with.
In the first few months of struggling with my Spanish at work, I imagined my Abuela Evelina waving her thick index finger at me from Beyond. She’s the reason I am bilingual. She forced us to speak Spanish en su casa. And only Spanish. Speak English? Outside you go. ¡Pa’ fuera! She literally kicked us out of the house if we spoke English.
So, I have put in the effort. I am reading more Spanish and I force myself to speak without the Spanglish—as much as a cubanita from Miami can. At home, with my 8-year-old, whom I am trying to raise as a bilingual, there is trying, too.
Do you believe your dreams are messages? I do. Maybe this dream is even a message sent by my Abuela or my subconscious’ little “Si se Puede” missive. No se. But, I want it to happen again soon. I liked seeing the version of me with the fabulous fast-talking, proper español. I am hanging on the hope that dreams can become realidad. And, I really don’t want to make Abuela Evelina mad.