The past few weeks at Home Depot have been interesting because the numbers have been greater.
I keep thinking we need an easel to write out some of the words, to be able to see them. The other day, one of the men complimented my Spanish, saying, “You know more Spanish than I know English, and I live here in the US.” I explained that I have been studying Spanish off and on since Senora Hernandez’s class in seventh grade, a long time ago. Still lamenting his English, he asked, “But what new have you learned today?” As if ready for the question, I responded, “Your names” with a sincerity that emphasized how grateful I am for the stories they share. This was not enough, so two of the men went into the mode of questioning whether I knew a variety of things, including irregular masculine and feminine nouns, the difference an accent over vowels makes, and so on. Finally, one mentioned that, unlike English, Spanish does not have the question: Do, as in: Do you want a sandwich? That was news to me. I was delighted for this information and for their work to deliver it to me.
In addition, I always ask for homework. One of the men suggested that I learn to sing “Paloma Negra,” a sad song (see below). Another quickly chimed in, saying that I am too white to be able to ht the low notes of the song. We all laughed.
When I tell people about this project, most think I am crazy, but the other day I was having breakfast with my friend A and her mother (a monolingual Spanish speaker). When A’s mom heard about the classes, she said, “I would like to come” even though her A, my friend, said it is a crazy idea. When I told A’s mom about the homework, this usually shy woman sang out in the midst of Starbucks the beginning of “Paloma Negra.” A was more shocked (and impressed) than I was.
Sometimes when I tell people about these classes, I have to remind them that some of these men are not uneducated and often have great interest in politics and culture. They are just in limbo here in the US right now. For me, this was punctuated when I asked Daniel, one of the regulars in the parking lot, what his dreams are. He said: “When I was younger and in Mexico, I was a good student, and I dreamed of going to university in the US. Now, I have no dreams. Maybe when I return to Mexico (in ten years) I will have dreams again.”
It was very hard to translate these words for my Advanced Comp students, but these words made us even more aware of what we have.
Ya me canso de llorar y no amanece
Ya no sé si maldecirte o por ti rezar
Tengo miedo de buscarte y de encontrarte
Donde me aseguran mis amigos que te vas
Hay momentos en que quisiera mejor rajarme
Arrancarme ya los clavos de mi penar
Pero mis ojos se mueren sin mirar tus ojos
Y mi cariño con la aurora te vuelve a esperar
Y agarraste por tu cuenta la parranda
Paloma negra, paloma negra ¿dónde, dónde andarás?
Ya no jueges con mi honra parrandera
Si tus caricias han de ser mías, de nadie más
Y aunque te amo con locura ya no vuelva
Paloma negra eres la reja de un penar
Quiero ser libre vivir mi vida con quien yo quiera
Díos dame fuerza que me estoy muriendo
por irlo a buscar
Y agarraste por tu cuenta las parrandas
I’m tired of crying with no hope
I don’t know whether to curse you or pray for you
I’m afraid to look for you and find you
Where my friends assured me you go
There are times when I’d like to die
And release myself from this suffering
But my eyes will die without seeing yours
And at dawn my love will be waiting for you again
As for you, you are partying
Black dove, black dove, where are you?
You shouldn’t play with my pride
Since your affection should have been mine and no one else’s.
And even though I love you madly, don’t come back
I want to be free, live my life with someone I love
God give me strength because I’m dying to go look for him