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Hispanic Link News Service

Spanglish Is a Commercial Hit

By Olivia Muñoz

January 7, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Hispanic Link News Service. All Rights Reserved.

``Oli, yo quiero que tu come back,'' my little brother, El Nene, tells me over the phone, half in Spanish, la otra mitad en inglés.

I've been away from Michigan and he misses me. My mom tsk-tsks in the background and says, `Habla bien, mijo.''

So many of us have been hearing those words for years from our Latin American-born parents and abuelos, sometimes even from older hermanas like myself. Talk correctly. Speak either in English or Spanish. Don't mix them up. Y por Dios, stop making words up! ?Qué es eso de ``watcha''? That's not English or Spanish! But we sure know what it means, verdad?

Pues, the elders might furrow their brows at their children's patchwork language, but ask anyone -- it's la moda.

Sure, many of us have been doing it for años, making our manner of speaking very much like a coffee creamer option: half and half. But I think it's finally safe to say we've made it into the country's mainstream.

Now, mira, hear me out. Sure, many will say it's been going on for a while now, what with the Latin Explosion and all. But in this country, you haven't even begun to put a dent in pop culture until absolutely anyone can make a quick buck off your heritage.

Hallmark en Español, a branch of one of the larger greeting-card companies, offers greetings for a variety of occasions. One, a ``get well soon'' card, offers this:

Watch un poco de televisión

Drink your té con miel y limón ...

Before you know it

y de repente

You'll be feeling


What better way to boost someone's spirits than with a cheery poem in Spanglish? And it flows pretty nicely, ¡qué no?

It used to be that using a word or two in Spanish would guarantee an ad was about something Latino. But not so any more.

Internet provider America Online recently offered a link titled ``Go Loco in Luxury.''

A quick click of the mouse led to a special shopping section featuring Saks Fifth Avenue, which we all know is famous for ... stuff I can't afford. I looked around the site a bit. There was nothing even remotely Latino there.

Advertisers, perhaps like first- or second-generation Latin American children learning English, don't care so much that their their grammar is full of flaws so long as they get their message across.

Starbust Candies splashed the word ``Juice-ísimo'' on a billboard advertisement. I think it's safe to say that anybody driving past knew what was meant with the Spanish suffix. Juice-ísimo, as in mucho juice. Simple.

Oye, Spanglish has been around long enough to deserve some recognition. It's been the language of many young Hispanic-Americans for generations. Those of us who say ``burrito'' with a New York or Texas accent, who pronounce the ``h'' in Honduras and listen to English-language music lyrics are in style, por fin.

The generations that also listened to Selena (and saw the movie, of course), made sure their teachers pronounced their last names correctly and bought Lowrider Magazine every month no longer have to search for an identity.

The generations whose laughter sounds of ja, ja, ja, who say ¡Ay! instead of ``Ouch!'' and can't help but call cities by names like ``San Anto,``''` ``East Los'' and Nuebayol are proving that not only are we a huge market, but hugely marketable.

¿Quién would've thought, eh?

Olivia Muñoz is a reporter with Hispanic Link News Service in Washington, D.C. She may be contacted by e-mail at

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