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Trapped In History

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Monday, November 28th, 2016 | 3,909 views

Roberto Garcia

“People are trapped in history and history is trapped inside them.”
—James Baldwin, “Stranger in the Village”

On a recent trip to the Canary Islands I was reminded that none of the languages I speak are native to me. The flight departed from JFK in New York City, would arrive at Madrid, Spain, and connect to a shorter flight that would ultimately land in Tenerife, Canary Islands. A few hours into the flight I asked the flight attendant for two whiskeys. I can never sleep on a plane and since this was a red-eye I figured a couple of drinks might help. I asked for the drinks in Spanish and his surprise was evident. His expression changed for an instant. Almost as if he questioned the reality of what was happening. A part of me can understand that, but another part of me can’t. Part of me thinks he should be used to Latinos by now. That his experience as a flight attendant dealing with countless passengers from across the Latino diaspora would have educated him on enough of our differences as to not be taken off guard by me. Then I got to thinking about language.

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