A blog by Amanda Alcantara

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How I Lost My Accent

I can't tell when it happened, yet the realization that it did smacked me across the face. Like a sudden accusation made by an invisible finger. "I recognize that accent", I told myself. The first time I noticed that Dominicans too have a distinguishable way of speaking Spanish was while sitting with my mom in our old green couch back in Santiago watching "Don Francisco Presenta". Jackie Guerrido was being interviewed this one time, and she started imitating different accents during the interview. She did Colombian, Cuban and other accents then announced that she was going to speak in a Dominican accent. I remember that I immediately laughed, "Dominicans don't have an accent!" I said. But they did and on that day I found that out after hearing Guerrido's transition from country to country and recognizing the one  that I undoubtedly sounded like. However, in that moment, it wasn't really an accent to me, but rather a part of my culture--it was completely natural.

Now an invisible finger is pointing at me asking me where my accent is. Now, I can only really hear it in others and though it warms my heart and takes me home, it no longer emanates from my garganta as it once used to. My "bolsas" moved on from meaning "balls" (yes, testicles) to bags. My laziness went from "haraganería" to "pereza". And at my job I've been told that I sound like I'm from Central America or somewhere indistinguishable. I leave Spanish speakers whom I meet for the first time confused in my Afro-Latino features yet unaccented speak.

I lost my accent. It was lost somewhere between the many times when I made sure to add "s" at the end of plural worlds and rolled r's in words like "comer". It was lost behind the shame of knowing that somehow every word that I spoke devalued me in the ears of those who've been taught that we can be defined by how hard we pronounce our "z".  It was lost in the shame of knowing that my value could be defined by how soft my "y" is when I say "yo". I lost my accent while trying to assimilate in a society where Spanish comes in second but Dominican Spanish, with it's afro-roots and refranes campesinos, can easily come in last. I lost my accent the moment that I started seeing it as an accent and not simply the way in which I speak... just like when being Dominican became something to identify with.

And yet, when I'm in pain I beg "Ay dio, quítame e'te dolor". When I'm sufriendo de mal de amores I beg para que el asfixie se me quite. When I hit myself, the words "la creta"slip out of my mouth as if I can only feel pain in the language that I spoke while feeling my first heartbreak, my first moment of despair, my first fall as a child that was always followed by an adult saying "no llores, eso e' pa crecer" ("don't cry, that's so you can grow"). My Dominican Spanish can be found in the club coming out of my lips as I mouth a bachata song, in my lamentable "ay" when I'm feeling worry. It resonates behind the "ha!" sound when I say "cahrro" instead of "carro".

Those are moments that I can't control where my native tongue sings in beautiful resistance. And yet when I speak intently and with every sentence preceded by an idea, I'm filled with regret in realizing that somehow I might no longer think in Dominican Spanish. 


Anonymous said...

"Bolsas" said by Ningun dominicano ever!

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