It was July of ’06 when my grandmother passed away. She was one of the last of the Huereca family who spoke Spanish as a first language. Times are indeed changing, but it is regrettable that so few of the Huereca clan can speak fluent Spanish. Thus, my goal is to learn Spanish to at least honor my Mexican heritage and where I came from.

In Huntsville, Alabama, there are a lot of Latino restaurants, but not so many places to fully immerse one’s self into the language. I had the privilege of actually visiting a tienda (store) where the lady who was helping me confessed she was still learning English and knew very little. I also confessed I knew very little of Spanish.

In all truth, I am less than a third done with my Rosetta Stone course in Latin America. I have immersed myself in Latino música (Spanish music) and have turned on Spanish subtitles for every single película (movie) I have watched. I even watched a movie called Freedom Writers, which ironically doesn’t have subtitles en Español.

I took Spanish in high school, but I paid little attention. It wasn’t until around October/November of 2006 that I decided that I wanted to try to learn the language. I enrolled in some online courses and started the slow journey.

Around March (2007) I quit. I was unmotivated and I had convinced myself that I couldn’t learn this language. Every time I went to a Mexican restaurant, I was pained because I couldn’t speak to the staff in a language I knew they were familiar with.

When I made the trip to Austin, Texas in June of 2007, a lady approached me in desperation asking if I spoke Spanish. I told her no. I was so disappointed in myself. I vowed to keep it up.

I asked a friend of mine if I could learn Spanish without actually having anyone around me speaking Spanish. She said no. So I thought to myself, “What is the best way to earn Spanish friends?” It is to learn their language, and slowly break into their inner-circle.

And I have been doing just that. I’ve been listening to nothing but Latino music, starting to read Spanish graphic novels, and renting Spanish movies. It is regrettable that the cable networks here do not carry Latino channels, but hopefully that’ll change soon.

Huntsville, unfortunately, is not too friendly to the Latino community. When I went to Austin, practically everywhere there were at least some Spanish speaking people. Here in Huntsville, it’s mostly English.

But it’s important to keep going, and to stay motivated. The trip today to a Mexican restaurant where I could talk to the staff in mostly Spanish was a great motivator. When I told the waitress I wanted some water without lemon (quiero agua sin limón), I enjoyed a small victory.

The waitress then asked me, “¿Te gusto español?”

I didn’t understand her at first because she spoke so fast, but then it clicked, “Yes, I do like Spanish.”