Sustaining a Spanglish Soul

As a playwright, I seek to explore the collisions between English and Spanish via a theatrical landscape. I desire to capture what musicality may be created by the intersection of these two languages. My biculturality drives this search for a Spanglish land where los dos idiomas live side by side.

My Spanish father and my Anglo mother raised me and my siblings in predominantly Anglo communities in Massachusetts and California, yet the Spanish language filled our surburban homes as my parents would speak to each other or my father would speak in Spanglish or in his heavily accented English. My father's early English lessons occurred during his childhood trips to the Madrid movie houses to see U.S. films, hence some of his idioms had a certain 1940s feel (e.g. James Cagney) as evidenced in several instances by his use of the word "hoodlums" to indicate people he didn't like. I grew up around this timeless, linguistic codeswitching, and it formed the basis of my embrace of both worlds.

As I began to learn Spanish in junior high school, I experienced an awakening of sorts. Certain portions of myself would come alive as I felt the forward placement of the Spanish vowels and the rich rolling consonants invade my body. Spending an entire summer in Spain at the age of fourteen with my theatrical and passionate relatives cemented this new way of being deep within my soul.

My father passed away twenty years ago and I live thousands of miles away from my relatives in Spain. As I began my journey as a playwright shortly after his death, I sought to create a space where I could continue to nurture this font of Spanish linguistic passion in the midst of my mostly Anglo world. With the venture into this new terrain, my plays drew me into communities of like-minded Latina/o artists where I found a new sense of cultural and linguistic home.

Connecting to Latino/o theater artists in New York and Los Angeles, who hailed from diverse cultural backgrounds, I began to experience a commonality, a bond and an inclusiveness resulting from our shared commitment to explore these linguistic and cultural collisions. Not discounting the specificity and significance of each artist's individual journey, I, however, began to feel a deep sense of community which traversed borders and backgrounds to create a unified whole, sometimes if only for the duration of a performance.

While navigating the Spanish of my father and English of my mother, I must mention a couple of caveats. After experiencing consistent guffaws from my classmates while pronouncing "c" and "s" as "th" during college, I decided to drop that uniquely Madrileña accent for the standard Latin American "s" pronunciation. In my first post-college job as a bilingual TA for the L.A. Unified school district, several of my mostly Mexican-American sixth-grade students would exclaim, "Ay Miss Garcia, you speak Spanish but you're white." Navigating the linguistic, cultural and racial borders of Spanish in the U.S. continues to be part of my journey as well.

In her book, Borderlands: La Frontera, The New Mestiza, Gloria Anzaldúa writes, "We speak a patois, a forked tongue, a variation of two languages." This variation endlessly fascinates me as it creates inherently theatrical language. By continuing to explore this linguistic terrain, I continue to create my pan-Latina imaginary which aims to reflect the growing Latina/o diversity in this country and in so doing, further sustain my Spanglish soul.

Anne García Romero plays include Earthquake Chica, Mary Peabody in Cuba, Desert Longing, Juanita's Statue and Santa Concepción. Her plays have been developed and produced most notably at the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater, Summer Play Festival (Off-Broadway), The Mark Taper Forum, Hartford Stage and South Coast Repertory. She has received commissions from the Public Theater, The Mark Taper Forum, and South Coast Repertory. She has also written for Peninsula Films, Elysian Films and Disney Creative Entertainment. She's been a Jerome Fellow as well as a MacDowell Colony fellow. She's taught at Cal Arts, UC Santa Barbara, UC Riverside, Wesleyan University and Macalester College. She holds an MFA in Playwriting from the Yale School of Drama and is a member of New Dramatists. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Dramatic Art at UC Santa Barbara and is writing her dissertation on transculturation and 21st-century Latina playwriting.