Part of The Story of Arlene Opio
My name is Arlene Opio. I was born in Queens, New York. I grew up in Brooklyn with my mom, dad, and um older sister. We moved to Elkton, Maryland when I was maybe around 3 years old.
My dad and my mom speak Spanish. They did not teach my sister and I Spanish, which when we were younger, it wasn’t something that we thought about. We would joke around about like, “Oh why didn’t you teach us Spanish,” but then when I hit high school, um my school was very diverse. There is a lot of black students and Hispanic students, and all the Hispanic students knew how to speak Spanish, and I didn't, and I would get asked if I did and, I would say “No,” and they would be like, “Oh I thought you were Puerto Rican,” and I would be like, “You can still be Puerto Rican and not know how to speak Spanish.”
Learning how to speak Spanish, that's the number one thing. Um, I’ve talked to my dad about it a few times, and he grew up in Brooklyn, New York, so his Spanish is slang a lot. It's not the proper way. So, I feel like once I actually set down the path of really being strong in my will learning how to speak Spanish, I’ll want to communicate with my father more about it, and sometimes he’ll tell me stories about um foods that he's eaten and things like him and his grandmother have done, and I feel like learning how to speak Spanish is like a goal of mine that I hope to like be really serious about in the next couple years, yeah.
I used to blame my mom and dad a lot for it um because I would feel really left out in high school um with the communities around me that I didn't fit in with, and I would not blame them [now], but I could have taken it upon myself to start learning. Like it didn't have to be them. But um I always like assumed that speaking Spanish was kind of a burden on them, and I feel like that’s why they didn’t choose to teach my sister and I, which they know that I think that was unfair of them and stuff. But um it’s interesting for me to see how cultures can influence different people, and it was like a negative thing for both of my parents which I’ve always felt was really interesting.
I would love my kids to speak Spanish whether they are only half Puerto Rican or 100% Puerto Rican, but whether it's from me or I would just want them to learn from a tutor or someone, I would really want my kids to in the future speak Spanish because it is a part of their culture and who they are.
With my English and Writing major, I hope to be a novelist or be like a script writer. I try to put a lot of races that you don't typically see in film or um read about in books in my stories because just as someone who is a minority, I love it when I see a different race on screen, or a different culture included in a story.
No, I do not read anything, I don't even think I watched any films um with Hispanic leads. I could probably think of like maybe three, and yeah, that's a major reason why I do it now. The female is usually a woman who is Hispanic but doesn't know how to speak Spanish. Because even when I do see films of a Hispanic lead, she is immersed in her culture, and I can't relate to that, and I have met some Hispanics who don’t know how to speak Spanish, and I feel like it's another side to the community that we don't really see.
I think the main reason why I include those characters in my stories is just for readers to know that there is like a different community in a community. I think when people just think of the Hispanic community, they just assume that everyone is immersed in their culture, but there are people who are really self-conscious and feel left out of it, and I feel like it'll just make people more aware that there are people like me who are on the outside and they want to be on the inside. Um, the characters that I write aren’t content with the fact that they’re not really that close to their culture, and I think it's a story that I don't really see, and I would love to see a film where a girl is trying to, um, she goes to Puerto Rico because she doesn't know much about her culture or anything. So, that's why I include it in.