We lived in Mexico City (D.F.) for two years when I was in fifth and sixth grade. When my family drove across the border to Texas to renew our green cards, we were checked quite thoroughly because everybody, including Mexicans, thought we were Mexican. To this day I am chastised by elderly women for speaking Spanish so poorly. "Pero soy de la India," I tell them, but it's no use. They're convinced I've betrayed my heritage and gone to the dark side. I don't defend myself too vehemently because they're right — I'm not completely fluent in Bangla, my native tongue, and it grieves me.
It's evident that the human brain is wired to acquire more than one language, and that our neural processes are sharpened by learning new languages. In India, Hindi is the national language, but many people are fluent in English as well as in their own regional languages. Here in the U.S.A., we're a country of immigrants with English as our national language, but what's wrong with striving for fluency in more than one language? In honor of Cinco de Mayo, the Fire Escape is proud to link to the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Awards, and to declare the Pledge of Allegiance today in Spanish: "Yo prometo lealtad a la bandera de los estados Unidos de America, y a la Republica que representa, una Nacion bajo Dios, entera, con libertad y justicia para todos."