There is the soft swinging Spanish my mother speaks. Cuban Spanish with traces of Galicia (where her parents were from). There is the rapid stop-and-start Spanish my father speaks. Argentine, but not porte~no, Spanish with traces of Croatia and Italy (where his parents were from). There is the Spanish I heard on the streets of New Jersey at an early age: Puerto Rican Spanish, Boricua Spanish, slurred, slangy, and defiant. There is the Spanish I heard on the sidewalks of Miami when I was an adolescent: Cuban exile and new-born Miami Spanglish, already hybrid, already part old Cuba and U.S., the Spanish of children in between languages and cultures embracing but also fighting the island Spanish that had re-landed onto this peninsula. The rhythms were swinging but broken by American words drawn from pop culture and remade into Spanish. Chequa esto! (Check this!) In North Carolina there was college Spanish. Castilian Spanish. Where la zeta was pronounced Spaniard-style. There was Unamuno, Martin Gaite, Cervantes, Garcia Lorca, Buero Vallejo, Gambaro, Neruda and Mistral. Worlds of Spanish on the pages of books from editoriales that were hitherto unfamiliar to me. Old Spanish, modern Spanish, "correct" Spanish from La Real Academia. Ojo!
There is the Spanish I heard in California while at university: Mexican Spanish and Chicanismos, a whole other way of speaking. Slower, more drawn out, tongue-clinging Spanish. In California I was a guera, my fair-skinned European Latinidad suddenly called into question. Hidden Spanish prevailed. Walking into a tienda and being mistaken for an Anglo while the shopkeepers spoke in Spanish as if I wasn't there and didn't understand. Private Spanish. To be used at will. She's not Latina, they said. Ironically it was in California, in San Diego, where I was first branded a Latina playwright.
On the streets of New York there was Dominican, Boricua, and Afro-Caribbean Spanish/spanglish. No Castilian here. Unless you went to a tapas bar. In New York Garcia Lorca had a different accent. He wore a strange smile. This Lorca, the Lorca of my translations, spoke American. He became a neo-guero, a Latino from Andalucia, a maverick poeta de la vanguardia nueva.
In New York there was also the Spanish that began finding its way onto the pages of my own texts, Spanish that then mutated and straddled its fronterismos in my plays: Girls rebuscando their Cuban-ness in Gleaning/Rebusca; a variety of young people sorting through their new Cuban, new Spanish, new santeria in Brazo Gitano; men and women speaking a new tongue, translated from Spanish but now all in American English in Any Place But Here; the floating mid-stream Lorquian-inflected Spanish spoken and sung by the pan-Latino figures in Prodigal Kiss; the Middle Passage candomble-metered speech and songs in Alchemy of Desire/Dead-Man's Blues: Creole Spanish, blues saudade gypsy Spanish, the globalized, fractured border(ed) Spanish of Iphigenia...a rave fable and The Tropic of X: the buried Spanish of the figures stranded in in-between-ness, in the process of remaking in Self-Made (a border crossing) and Antigone Arkhe: the matter-of-fact, casual Spanish graces in Luna Park.
All these Spanish-es and more course through me as the specters of Calderon and Lope de Vega encounter my pen and the mutable space of my screen in the cyber. Cyborg Spanish. Net Spanish. Text-message Spanish. R U aqui?
I write plays with all these Spanish-es living inside me, always in the in-between, sometimes throwing in private jokes only some in the audience will get, other times wearing the guera mask to uncover the real Spanish within me (the Spanish only some can see).
I dream sometimes of Vigo, where my mom's family is from. A small place where the Spanish is almost Irish, where Celtic sounds mix with highland jotas, where bagpipes (which figure occasionally, mysteriously in my plays) play faintly in a techno mix, a mix that wants to go Ibiza, the imagined Ibiza of the best sounds that lives on turntables everywhere from Berlin to Panama City.
I dream sometimes of the imagined Cuba too. Island dream. Broken dream. Hard-won, hard-lost. The boleros that are only sung in exile. The pop stars that live in 33-1/3 and 78 rpm. The beautiful Buena Vista real nostalgic madness born from Ry Cooder's musical dream.
And too I dream of the Spanish sung by those alluring and enticing near-kitsch superstars that graced the record player and TV when I was a child, the figures my parents admired: Rafael, an ultra-Spaniard; la diva Sarita Montiel; the legend Carlos Gardel; arresting torch chanteuse Olga Guillot; the unstoppable Celia Cruz; the restless protest singer Facundo Cabral; up and comers (then) Camilo Sesto, Emmanuel, and Miami Sound Machine. Musical Spanish. Yes. It also affects the way I speak, think and write this border(ed) Spanish, this border(ed) English that has one foot in the Americas and the other in the many Englishes spoken elsewhere.