English as a Second Lyric

Having spent my life in various points east of the Mississippi, I went for years without developing much of an ear, eye, or tongue for Mexican or Mexican-American culture. To tell the sorry truth, I did not even have very much curiosity on the subject.

I knew the demographic facts of life -- that the North American future would come posted in English and Spanish. And I knew that cultural and linguistic pluralism was important. I held what I considered to be politically correct views on the immigration question (i.e. "y'all come"). But these were all just facts or opinions, held at the mental level, and without passion or gusto or real understanding of the human stakes involved.

In 1985 I got the chance to drive around the Southwestern United States on my summer vacation, and then my wife, Polly, and I motored west again in 1988. This meant that I finally had the opportunity to learn about Mexican America the same way that I've learned almost everything else of any importance in life -- from the car radio.

For stretches of several days at a time, the radio, by my choice, emitted only occasional snatches of English as I soaked up the regional ambience by listening to the border radio. My main university was KADA-AM, "Jalapeno Radio," from San Antonio, Texas, your "mas musica" station with a signal as clear and strong as tequila.

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