Me llamo Joaquin Guadalupe Benavides. Okay, it’s actually not. I’m Jack Cavendish from North Central Texas. I grew up around many folks named Hernandez, Romo, and Ozuna, but I’m not Latino myself. At least by blood. At work, though, I refer to myself as El Latino Blanco. I’m the tall, pale, gray-haired gringo who admires the Latin American culture and language so much that he’s finally trying to plug into it in as many ways as he can.
I first studied Spanish in grade 6 and absolutely hated it. I know now that I didn’t hate the language, but the “learning” experience. A bad teacher can absolutely ruin a subject for a kid. I don’t remember that teacher’s name, and I wouldn’t reveal it if I did, since I’m not here to malign anyone. But her class was one I can remember dreading.
However, I had the opportunity (what I, before completing the course, considered a burden) to study it again 30 years ago in community college, where I was just attempting to get some of my required college coursework behind me.
That was one of the few college classes, apart from my musical training, that I still remember (and remember enjoying) today. If I could recall the teacher’s name, I believe I would call her and thank her for the experience. I like to think that I did so then, but I’m not sure.
A few years later, I had a chance (and took it) to visit a city deep in the heartland of Mexico and spend a few days working there with some friends. It was delightful how the locals there encouraged and helped me as I struggled to put into use my already-fading vocabulary. The words “cómo se dice en Español” came out of my mouth frequently as I pointed to various tools we were using in our work.
Still later, a primarily Spanish-speaking family moved in next door to my house, and we would often stand and visit in the front yard, enjoying a beer and/or some BBQ while doing our best to understand each other’s language. Some of my favorite neighbours ever, really!
Many times since those days I have thought about picking up the proverbial torch and continuing the study — not just to regain what little I’d lost, but to become truly fluent. Two recent occurrences actually converged to prompt me to do so after all these years.
The first was the discovery, by way of listening to the Tom Woods Show (a favorite podcast of my wife’s and mine) of Rocket Languages, an on-line teaching site offering Spanish, as well as several other languages. What appealed to me about their site was (and is) the fact that it doesn’t stop at teaching you how to order a cola at a restaurant or hail a taxi. Rocket Languages (hereinafter usually referred to as Rocket Spanish, since it’s the language I’m studying) also instructs in the mechanics and grammar of the language, as well as the culture of the people (or peoples) speaking it.
The second factor in my deciding to take on this challenge is the encouragement coming from a sweet friend who has offered to help me in my studies by challenging me, correcting me, and even immersing me in her language and culture, largely through music, which is where we seem to connect most deeply. She is a former colleague of mine, but has become such a close friend that I think of her as my twin sister (or “hermana gemela”). Lupita grew up speaking Spanish in her home and was taught English in school. She is fluent in both, and hearing her speak either is a distinct pleasure. Indeed, it was she who cemented my decision to take on “Joaquin” as my Spanish pseudonym. I’m grateful to Lupita for offering to accompany me in El Viaje de Joaquin. You can read a bit more about mi hermana on her About page.
Mi esposa querida, Josie, who generously offered to buy the Spanish course for me, also deserves a ton of credit! She has been by my side these 20+ years and has encouraged me in many endeavours of mine — some successful, some not — and I appreciate her more than I can express. I’m hoping she’ll try learning Español with me, but she does have her own interests, including running her virtual assistant business, and studying to be a professional proofreader for court reporters. Thank you, darling, for one of the most thoughtful gifts ever.
And again, thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to learn a little more about this journey of mine.