En Español, Por Favor

I had nothing better to do this past summer, so I thought I would learn to speak Spanish.

This desire was driven by a number of things. Having been born and raised in southern California, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Hispanic culture. As I’ve aged (read: mellowed and matured), the “hate” part has completely faded, leaving me with an idealized love of all things Latin American. The music, the accents, the culture – I love it all.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve become very interested in my heritage. I knew next to nothing about my biological father’s family (more on this in a future post), and much of what I knew of my mother’s family became more shrouded in mystery the further back you went.

So I sent off my saliva to Ancestry.com and waited patiently for the results.

Most of what came back was not surprising – I assumed my mother’s side had come from Europe at some point – Danziger and Boyd are both common European names – and Hardwick screams “British Isles.” What I didn’t expect was the 6% Native American result.

That’s when I started digging, and learned that, for reasons that are obvious if you think about them for a few seconds, Native American results can sometimes be mistaken for Mexican results in certain cases. According to Ancestry.com:

Not long after humans first appeared in today’s Alaska and the western United States, they had already settled as far south as the tip of modern-day Chile. Then they migrated inland. As settlers, these groups were dramatically successful: In only a few thousand years they had occupied virtually the entire landmass.


Armed with this information, I redoubled my efforts at lifting the veil of my father’s ancestral past.

Thanks to public records and contact with a couple of fifth cousins, I was able to ascertain that my paternal great-grandfather, James Jefferson Santigo Hardwick, was married at least three times. He was born in Missouri in February of 1857, and moved to Mexico sometime between 1870 and 1881.

His first wife, Luisa Aguilar, was from Sonora, Mexico – that’s where they met, married, and lived for many years. When she died twelve years later, my great-grandfather married her sister, Esperanza Aguilar. And when she died six years after that, he married a third sister, Josefina Aguilar.

Josefina J de Jesus Aguilar is my great-grandmother, and the cause of the 6% “Native American” reading in my DNA. I am – proudly – part mexicaño. ¡Viva Mexico!

In addition to these facts, my daughter is fluent in Spanish, having gone through the language immersion program at Eisenhower Elementary School from kindergarten through fifth grade. She continued to study Spanish, with a slight detour into Latin, well into her first year of college. We are now able to communicate in Spanish (albeit at a very basic level), and though I can’t speak for her, I enjoy it very much.

Last March, I stumbled onto an online course called Speed Spanish that is primarily geared toward people anticipating travel to Spanish-speaking countries, and I was off to the races. I completed all three tracks in a matter of a few months, just in time to take a beginning Spanish course at Tulsa Community College. Thanks to Speed Spanish, I was able to excel in this class, and am already making plans to take Spanish II this summer as a break from the marketing and business classes I’ve been taking through Oklahoma State University-Tulsa (go Pokes!)

One of my favorite parts of learning español has been connecting on an entirely different level with friends and acquaintances who speak Spanish. I’ve also made friends from American latina who are trying to learn English – I’ve met quite a few people through various iPhone apps, in fact. I write and speak in Spanish, they do the same in English, and we teach each other – a truly collaborative effort!

What I Learned

Ancestry is a fascinating thing – if you don’t know where you came from and who your ancestors are, the process of discovery and be just as exciting as the discovery itself.

Ah, y español. Estoy aprendiendo a hablar español.

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