A Nuyorican in LA: The Accents, Slang Words, and Attitudes That Define (and Divide) Us

Here in City Terrace, as in many Mexican immigrant communities, like my old neighborhood of Corona in Queens, NYC, Spanish – specifically, Mexican Spanish - is the dominant language. It's used among most of the local business owners, from Leo who owns the corner market, to the street vendors who sell cut fruit with chile and lime, elotes, nieves and raspados (that's piraguas to us Ricans).

It is also the language of the majority of the parents in the local public elementary school. In the mornings I hear many of the moms urging their kids along with an "orale." It's the reason why parent meetings are conducted in Spanish first and if needed then translated into English. The English-only speakers are the minority. But what they lack in numbers they make up for in attitude with the assumption often being that those that speak only Spanish, the primarily Mexican immigrants, are ignorant and need the help of English language speakers.

For example, some parents at my 5 year old's local school were upset that they couldn't hold office on the English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC) even though they didn't have kids that were English Language Learners and they themselves could speak English. ELAC is a committee comprised of parents, staff, and community members specifically designated to advise school officials on English Learner program services and in East LA ELAC is like a Spanish language branch of the PTA and it is huge in size and huge in assumed power.

I haven't started sounding like I'm from East LA and neither have my kids, although sometimes I hear my 5 year old fall into sing song and call something "lame" - a word that is not allowed in my house. I am quick to correct her, tell her we don't use language that is hurtful but I also don't want her to lose her New York edge and attitude - even if you can't hear it in our accents.

Follow Maegan "Mamita Mala" Ortiz as she chronicles her adventures as a Nuyorican in LA, including her quest for the best schools for her daughters, how she gets around without a car, and the story of how the self-proclaimed original "Twitterputa" fell in love and ended up here in the first place.

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