I’m Mexican American. I learned English, but was never taught Spanish. So I’ve always had to let people know, who started to talk to me in Spanish, that I didn’t know Spanish. I’ve learned to say the words “No Hablo Espanol” very well actually.
I was working at a department store off of Main Street. If you’re from San Diego, you know that Main Street is pretty close to the border. So we get a lot of Mexicans that come over to purchase things. I was a cashier, and was really great at my job. I was always kind to people and when someone would speak to me in Spanish, I would politely tell them, “No hablo Espanol.” I’ve said this sentence so many times. You would think I was joking with you about not being able to speak Spanish since I’ve said it so perfectly.
One day a very old Mexican lady came up to my check out counter with a lot of stuff that she wanted to purchase. I greeted her, she nodded and I began ringing her up. I noticed I started to get a line as well, so I called for assistance for another cashier. As I finally finished ringing her up, I told her the total. Then she spoke to me in Spanish. I thought to myself, “Damn, here we go again,” and told her the phrase, “No hablo Espanol.” She was shocked at what I said, looked at my name badge and asked why I don’t speak Spanish. She then proceeded to ridicule me at the fact I didn’t speak Spanish and that I should be ashamed of myself for being a disgrace to all Mexicans. After what was a 10 minute speech, that everyone was listening to, she asked me a question that will live with me for the rest of my life. She asked, “Aren’t you Mexican?” There was a little pause, guests waited to hear my response and my co-worker was wondering what I was going to do.
So I took a deep breathe and said, “No ma’am, I’m actually Samoan.” She froze for a moment AND IN PERFECT ENGLISH said, “Oh I’m sorry, well have a great day,” and walked away. As the next guest came up to me I began to ring them up. He stopped me and asked me, “Are you really Samoan?” I looked at everyone that was curious as well, and said, “Nope, I’m Mexican.” Everyone began laughing. That was the day I will always remember when I was Samoan for 10 minutes.