Jessica Alba can’t speak Spanish, and she’s being criticized for it, says Mimi Valdés Ryan in Latina. The 26-year-old actress is Mexican on her father’s side, but she’s not bilingual. That has prompted some Hispanic commentators to complain that she has neglected her heritage, and she has not been welcome at some Latino-themed events. Alba says the cold shoulder hurts. “I always took pride in being Latina, it’s something I always embraced,” she says. “But when I got shunned, it made me feel really bad, like maybe I’m not.” She says her lack of Spanish proficiency is not her fault. Her paternal grandparents were first-generation Mexican-Americans who deliberately didn’t teach her father and his siblings Spanish, fearing they would be ostracized. “By no means was he rejecting where he came from,” she said of her grandfather. “He just wanted his kids to assimilate and not feel different. I wish to God that my dad spoke Spanish to my brother and me, but he didn’t grow up with it. I can’t change how I grew up, and I shouldn’t have to apologize for it.” Just the same, Alba, who is pregnant with her first child, says she wants her kids to have the cultural connection she missed as a child. “I want my kids to speak Spanish. I don’t even want them to learn English for maybe the first two or three years, until preschool.”
Alba’s Spanish inquisition
March 20, 2008
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