Lubbock family strives to preserve Hispanic culture

Lubbock family strives to preserve Hispanic culture

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

Speaking more than one language can open doors to a variety of opportunities. There seems to be a keen interest among many English only speakers in Texas to learn Spanish as a second language. 

The Ponce DE Leon's are a bi-cultural family. Ivan was born and raised in México City and immigrated to the U.S. at a later age. His wife Stefanie was born and raised in New Zealand.

Their three children Ethan, Eli and Emmie are being taught that culture is a big part of their family identity.

 "For them to be able to have the opportunity to travel, live, and work and be able to use that in their everyday life," Stefanie said.

"I think it's interesting how kids growing up here with the 'Spanglish' thing it's a reality for them because there are kids who are living between two cultures," Ivan said. "Just for them to know both of them, it's very important for us for them to understand that".

Diego Pascual is the Director of the Spanish Heritage Language Program at Texas Tech. He said that those in this generation tend to find themselves in a constant battle to establish their identity. He said they feel compelled to prove who they are to themselves and others.

 "How Mexican they are to Mexicans and how American they are to Americans," Pascual said. "Its double the effort, so in a sense it is a lot of struggle for them".

Spanish researchers are calling it the third generation rule.

"When the children are the immigrants, to speak Spanish to a certain degree as they grow up, they feel more comfortable and are more dominant in English," Pascual said. "What happens when they are adults is they tend to have their children only speak English."

There are more than 56 million Hispanics in the U.S., by far the second largest Spanish speaking nation in the world, behind México, but a large number of these Hispanics don't speak Spanish and some say they wish they knew their ancestral language.

Vanessa Alvarado is a Hispanic whose parents and grandparents speak Spanish, but she said she was never taught.

"It would have opened more doors for me with my career or even with college," Alvarado said. "Applying for college, I could have gotten scholarships, I could of gotten more job offers or I could have been paid more for speaking Spanish."

Alvarado said she wishes she would have had the opportunity to learn the language. 

"I would have been more in touch with my culture and I would of also liked to have that communication with people who speak Spanish," Alvarado said. "If someone comes up to me and they are asking me something in Spanish because I look like I speak Spanish and I don't, it's kind of a bummer when I have to tell them like No I don't speak Spanish. So it would have helped me in those ways." 

The Ponce De Leons said they have realized the importance of keeping the Spanish language alive in their home.

"It helps us as a family when we come across someone from a different color who doesn't look like us," Ivan said. "They understand we are all the same, we might look different we might speak a different language, but it's good for them to see that and us as a family to be able to understand that this is a country where there is a lot of cultures and what makes its richness of a country."

Ethan and Eli go to school at Willow Bend Elementary in the Frenship District which has a dual language program.

Senon Cruz is the coordinator of the Bilingual and ESL Program and said it provides students with a rigorous curriculum in both languages.

"The purpose of the program is that by the time they get to fifth grade, they can master those skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing and in both languages," Cruz said.

The Ponce De Leon family said that the hurdles of learning a new language has brought great rewards. 

"We know that those struggles are worth it, because at the end they come out speaking a whole language and it's a good thing," Stefanie said.

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