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Community members shared their personal experiences on the role the Spanish language has played in their lives at a charla hosted by Boyle Heights Beat last Saturday.

The forum, titled ‘Language and Culture: Are youth losing their Spanish,’ was meant to spark conversations on how Spanish fits into family traditions and how Boyle Heights residents preserve their heritage while embracing English in America.

Close to 50 people attended the open meeting where they were invited to join in on organized table discussions focused around schools, home, emotions, assimilation and identity. Participants shared how they balance the use of Spanish and adoption of English in their home, what they feel are the benefits and disadvantages of using one more than the other and what they have gained and lost as a result of assimilation.

The forum had a diverse group of attendants of various ages, immigrant generations, and different educational backgrounds. This set the stage for a passionate exchange of ideas and experiences, which caused many to dig deep, reflect and analyze on the decisions that have shaped their identities.

While some parents voiced their concerns with the lack of Spanish their children were exposed to at school, others admitted instilling this aspect of heritage was a parental responsibility they have failed at.

A younger generation also shared their own feelings around the topic, explaining that, at times, they are embarrassed to speak Spanish from fear of being discriminated against or not “fitting in.”

Although one participant said they never used Spanish at their place of work, most members in attendance agreed that language is an integral part of cultural preservation and that being bilingual possesses many benefits.

Youth reporter Alinne Gonzalez moderated the event held at the Boyle Heights City Hall. Gonzalez said she became interested in this topic after she noticed students at her school didn’t seem to be interested in embracing their family’s heritage or language. This fall, she will embark on an article about this topic for the next edition of Boyle Heights Beat.

Boyle Heights Beat staff members and Hoy newspaper’s Editorial Director (BHB’s new partner) Alejandro Maciel, facilitated the conversations. Magaly Lavadenz, Ph.D, educational leadership professor at Loyola Marymount University, helped guide the open discourse, interlacing connections between the participant’s reflections and providing her own expertise on language and culture.

Photos by Jonathan Olivares and Daisy Escorcia

How do you preserve your heritage and embrace English in America? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.

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