Los Angeles: How Do You S ay ‘Got Milk’ en Español?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Sep 26 19:26:11 UTC 2007

September 23, 2007
How Do You Say 'Got Milk' en Español?


"That boy over there?" John Gallegos said. "Straddler. His mother is a
Learner. She's going to be talking to him in Spanish. Watch." Gallegos
stood quietly, in the wide central part of a mall, pretending to look
at nothing. The mother and son passed close by. She had dark red hair
and was leaning on the boy's arm; he was 14 or so, and in blue jeans.
Gallegos was right. The mother was chatting amiably in Spanish.
Gallegos tilted his head toward four teenagers shambling along. "Those
kids? All Straddlers," he said. "Well, the guy with his cap backwards
— he might be a Navigator. He's probably more

The mall was in the city of Downey, which is part of Los Angeles. It
was an ordinary California midrange shopping center: clean floors,
Starbucks, hip apparel chains. Gallegos had come in to examine a
clothing store he thought might become a new client. He's a publicista
an adman. He runs a 60-person agency called Grupo Gallegos in Long
Beach. His agency wins awards for its commercials, which are funny,
edgy and require translating into English when international judging
committees study them. This particular week, in the middle of summer,
Grupo Gallegos work was advertising leche, transporte de autobuses,
pollo, ropa interior, servicio de Internet de alta velocidad,
consultorios médicos, gimnasios and pilas that would be California
Milk Processor Board milk, Crucero bus lines, Foster Farms chicken,
Fruit of the Loom underwear, Comcast high-speed Internet service,
Quick Health medical clinics, Bally fitness clubs and Energizer
batteries, which the Gallegos people had decided to promote via a
long-faced Mexican man who walks down the street explaining that as he
has figured out that he's immortal (scenes of him being mashed by a
plummeting second-story sign, impaled on a spear in a museum, etc.),
he requires an especially durable battery for his camera.

Grupo Gallegos advertising runs on Spanish-language television,
Spanish radio, in Spanish magazine pages and on Spanish or bilingual
Web sites. Some of these enterprises are housed in places you might
expect them to be: New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Houston. Many are
not. There's full-time Spanish television broadcasting now in
Anchorage; Salt Lake City; Little Rock, Ark.; Wichita Falls, Tex.;
Indianapolis; Savannah, Ga.; Boston; Oklahoma City; Syracuse, N.Y.;
and Minneapolis. The area encompassing Portland, Ore., now has 10
Spanish radio stations, while four years ago it had only 3. The July
issue of ESPN Deportes, with Hugo Sánchez on the cover, had a
Gallegos underwear ad inside; so did the gossip magazine ¡Mira!, with
Angélica Rivera on the cover; and a People en Español with RBD on the
cover; and a Men's Health en Español, whose cover article promised
that James Bond would show readers how to be an hombre de acción.

If the only name on that list that sounds familiar is Bond's the
others are, respectively, the Mexican national soccer team coach, a
telenovela star and a wildly popular pop-music group then Gallegos is
interested less in selling you products, since you are likely not
Hispanic, than in pointing out the exploding spending power of the
demographic that is. The estimate worked up by the Association of
Hispanic Advertising Agencies for 2007 is $928 billion. Those are
dollars spent inside this country by Hispanic consumers, American-born
citizens as well as green-card residents and the undocumented, on
things they want or need: batteries, iPods, laundry soap, lawn chairs,
motor oil, Bulova watches, new-home loans, Volvos, takeout pizza,
cellphones, power saws, swimming pools, deodorant, airline tickets and
plasma TV's. It's $200 billion more than was spent two years ago.
Propelled by continuous immigration and larger family size, the dual
factors that are making the Hispanic population multiply faster than
any other in the United States, the spending figure is expected to top
a trillion dollars within the next three years.

In comparison with some of his colleagues in Hispanic advertising, in
fact, John Gallegos runs a moderate-size shop. There are more than a
hundred United States ad agencies, not including the publicistas in
Puerto Rico, that now work almost exclusively in Spanish. The bigger
Hispanic agencies have accounts like McDonald's (Me encanta, which
roughly translates to "I'm lovin' it"), and Chevrolet (Súbete, "Get
in"). Bounty's slogan in English, "The quicker picker-upper," appears
in Spanish as Con Bounty sí puedes — "With Bounty, yes you can."
T-Mobile does Estamos juntos, "We're all together." Toyota does Avanza
confiado, "Advance confidently." Wal-Mart reportedly spends more than
$60 million a year on reaching Hispanics, and for some years the
Wal-Mart Spanish tag line, composed by a Houston agency called Lopez
Negrete Communications, was Para su familia, de todo corazón. Siempre.
Which lofted the blunt English "Low prices, always," into a line
enduring enough for a tombstone: "For your family, from the heart.

>>From this vantage, the grim admonitions of anti-immigration groups are
hard to hear distinctly; they're drowned out by the sound of cash
registers. At the Grupo Gallegos office there's a closet full of
display cards on which fragments of information have been written out
in black ink. The cards are frequently rifled through and arranged
onto giant poster boards, and the first time I visited the Gallegos
offices this summer, the boards from the most recent presentation were
still leaning against a wall; the prospective client was a food
company. The boards said things like:

LEARNERS: foreign born, Spanish dominant, 3 av kids, 65% rent

STRADDLERS: immigrated young, 4 av HH size, blue collar/semi prof,
bilingual/mostly Spanish

NAVIGATORS: English dominant, some Spanish, 78% at least some college,
semi prof/prof, 60% own home, HH inc $76K

The towers of information, with arrows here and there for emphasis,
were taller than I am. They included Learner/Straddler/Navigator
particulars on sour-cream usage (Navigators buy the most). The Senate
immigration bill was collapsing during the weeks I spent watching
Grupo Gallegos at work, and the Gallegos office sometimes felt like a
prism in which the information generating so much political argument
was continuously being refracted and reassembled into something
vigorous and celebratory. "You ask: the guy who just came across the
border with a coyote, do I want to go after him, too?" Gallegos once
said to me. "Well, he's going to get a job. He's going to work. He's
going to start buying products and contributing to the economy. So
while he might not be viable for a Mercedes today, I can introduce you
to people who came here illegally or legally, with nothing, and are
now driving a Mercedes. Advertising is aspirational. I want to aim
ahead of where my audience is. Unless it's the equivalent of beef to
Hindus, I always say, any product and any service should be sold to
Latinos in this country."

Gallegos happened to be sitting in an office conference room at that
moment with two account executives, an immigrant from Argentina named
María Maldini and an immigrant from Mexico named Ken Muench, and they
both considered this.

"Is there a beef-to-Hindus equivalent?" Maldini asked.

"Not that I've been able to find," Gallegos said.

"Sleepovers," Muench said, and smiled.

"True," Gallegos said. "My parents wouldn't let me sleep over at
friends' houses. I still won't let my 8-year-old. You have to be very
high on the acculturation curve to do sleepovers."

The Grupo Gallegos office stretches across the sixth floor of a
building one block off the beach. It has conference rooms and odd
corner spaces that are enclosed by red curtains, like indoor Bedouin
tents, so the creative guys on deadline can go slouch inside on
stuffed chairs and pull the curtains around them and stare at their
open laptops, looking desperate. The preferred Gallegos term for this
state is en el fondo del mar, at the deepest depths of the sea. The
creative guys wear blue jeans and T-shirts and tend to be unshaven.
The office chatter eddies around the Gallegos workspace in Mexican
Spanish, Argentine Spanish, Colombian Spanish, Puerto Rican Spanish,
Cuban Spanish and the lispy Castillian Spanish of Spain, which is
spoken fluently by, among others, a woman of Korean ancestry who grew
up near Barcelona. It's all extremely modern and confusing. John
Gallegos, who is 40, was born in Los Angeles to a family from the
Mexican state of Zacatecas; he and the other United States-born
Hispanics at the agency slide back and forth between languages,
frequently midsentence. "O.K., aquí está el problema que tenemos when
we really start looking at the brand."

One morning I walked into a red-curtained corner as Curro Chozas, one
of the art directors, was saying in Spanish: "Tutankhamen, Charlie
Chaplin, Mozart, George Washington — whatever. Anyway, whoever he is,
he rips open his shirt. VRROOOM! It's a bird! It's a plane! No! It's
George Washington!"

Chozas is from Madrid. He talks very fast and is good at sound
effects, so the vrrooom made everybody jump. On the stuffed chairs
were a copywriter named Saúl Escobar, who's from Mexico, and one of
the creative directors, Juan Pablo Oubiña, who's from Buenos Aires and
was listening to Chozas while staring at his own feet. Oubiña has a
shaggy dark hair and a melancholy countenance, even when he's greatly
amused. Escobar and Chozas spent the previous days imagining a set of
Dadaist spots placing famous characters from history in interesting
situations with speedy things, strapped-on rockets and race cars and
so on; this was promoting high-speed Internet service from Comcast,
for which a previous campaign had featured wallets so grateful for
Comcast's low prices that they leapt from their owners' possession and
flew through the air in order to protect them from mishaps like
spilled ketchup or reaching pickpockets.

Escobar and Chozas were tag-teaming now, waiting for a reaction.

"Napoleon Bonaparte, for example," Chozas said. "Lassie. Mahatma Gandhi."

"That would get my attention, Gandhi with the race car," Escobar said.

"Napoleon's too hard," Oubiña said.

"You think more people will recognize Gandhi than Napoleon?" Chozas said.

"Pancho Villa," Escobar said.

"There must be 200 ads with George Washington in them," Oubiña said.
He stretched and scrunched his hair. "Cleopatra would be better known
than Napoleon."

"Let's go ask somebody," Chozas said.

They trooped out. Oubiña has a college degree, owns his home, has a
wife-one-child HH size, is more comfortable speaking Spanish than
English, would be white-collar if he actually wore collars and at 38
has lived in this country for less than a third of his life; for these
and other reasons, he is a Straddler, he told me, with certain
Learner/Navigator undercurrents. At Grupo Gallegos, they all think
this way. ("Navigator, with Learner mother and Straddler father," one
account director said crisply, when I asked her to label herself:
she's a 34-year-old professional; they came from Mexico when she was
6; her father manages well now in English; her mother doesn't.) It was
Oubiña who led the preparation for the first Grupo Gallegos ad I ever
saw, last spring, during one of my periodic telenovela binges. The
tagline was Toma leche, "Have some milk." The ad was vastly more
entertaining than my novela, and I thought I appreciated what the
challenge had been; the counterpart English campaign was "Got Milk?"
and I was pretty sure that asking people in Spanish whether they have
milk is a bad idea, since I had once learned the regrettable way that
if you use Spanish to ask a male Mexican grocer, "Do you have eggs?"
you are inquiring as to his testicles.

In this instance, as it turns out, Tiene leche? may or may not be a
vulgarity about breast milk, depending on situational context, but
that wasn't the real challenge at all. Translation alone rarely is.
(The famous Chevy Nova story, about how General Motors bungled its
1960s Latin American car marketing because nobody figured out in time
that no va means "doesn't go," has been reclassified as urban legend;
there was a Mexican gasoline called Nova, debunkers point out, and
besides, no va is not the way a Spanish speaker would typically say a
car doesn't work.) The real challenge, for Grupo Gallegos, was how to
sell more milk to as many kinds of Hispanics as possible without
alienating any of them or boring all of them. Also, as a point of
creative honor, the Gallegos people didn't want to look lame alongside
the English "Got Milk?" campaign, which is internationally regarded as
one of the brilliant ad runs of the last 20 years. That campaign's big
idea, to use adspeak, was deprivation; the San Francisco agency
Goodby, Silverstein, stumped about how to draw attention to a product
as familiar and soporific as milk, had decided to play with the comic
horrors inherent in discovering the milk carton was empty. In one of
the most celebrated of the "Got Milk?" ads, a history buff who knows
the name of Alexander Hamilton's killer grabs the phone to answer a
radio quiz question and win a load of money, but he can't make himself
understood because his mouth is jammed up with peanut-butter sandwich
and he's completely out of milk.

But this would have been a gross misfire in Spanish — and not simply
because an El Salvadorean immigrant, for example, is probably
unfamiliar with both Aaron Burr and peanut-butter sandwiches. The
whole theme was wrong, especially for people who have abandoned their
home countries to migrate hundreds of miles north for work. "There's
already enough deprivation," Oubiña told me. "It wasn't funny."

Everybody at the agency wanted to be memorable and sharp, though; they
were not going to stick Mamá in her kitchen lovingly pouring milk for
the children while exchanging smiles with Abuelita, as grandmas are
called in Spanish. For some years now, that has been the standard
these-are-Latinos cue when Hispanic agencies are doing the work. You
don't see dumb Anglo-generated clichés in these ads, like
strategically placed tortillas or businessmen wearing sombreros. In
Hispanic-made commercials the clichés are homegrown; the United States
in general appears as a splendidly cheerful, up-by-the-bootstraps sort
of place, full of suburban homeowners and hardworking men with pickup
trucks, and an impressive amount of the time somebody has also figured
out how to stage all this amid a warm multigenerational family, with
Abuelita helping demonstrate the merits of the product. It's referred
to in some agencies as "Abuelita advertising." It makes Oubiña a
little crazy. "Look how she's dressed," he said in exasperation,
replaying on his computer an Abuelita ad for cooking oil. Technically
there was no abuelita in this one, just a beautifully-outfitted mamá
in a spotless kitchen, experiencing overwhelming joy because of the
health benefits the oil was bringing her family. "I would never make
this ad," Oubiña said. "It looks like 750,000 other brands. On any
team I lead, there is never going to be a kitchen with somebody
exclaiming, 'Mmmm, how delicious!' "

The milk problem sent Oubiña and Escobar and Chozas into the deepest
depths of the sea for a while, until it occurred to them to improvise
with the opposite of deprivation: maniacal consumption, with the
ensuing calcium-and-vitamins overload. They thought up a town where
gravity is unreliable, causing the locals to float matter-of-factly
along 30 feet in the air until they suddenly crash to the ground;
their bones are exceptionally strong, though, because they drink so
much milk, so they get right up and stroll away. Same thing with
powerful teeth (a town where bus riders bite the straps hanging
overhead) and hair with the strength of steel. Big success: satisfied
client, international award for the gravity spot. "I just don't want
to do old-school Hispanic advertising," Oubiña said. "I'm not trying
to sound like an artist here. If I thought that, I'd be out of work by
the end of the year. I'm just talking from a strategic point of view.
You have to put something out there that hasn't been seen before."

On his desk Oubiña had a plastic Energizer bunny, which fell over
after he wound it up and was now on its back, drumming and flailing.
The agency had won awards for its Energizer ads too, but now they had
a new campaign to develop, and Oubiña was grappling; he had to write a
15-second television spot that was eye-catching, praised the battery,
contained a comic punch line that would make perfect sense to
Hispanics and allowed el conejito — the little rabbit — to do its
marching act across the screen. He was also supposed to try to help
make the brand iconic for Spanish speakers. That was the word they
were using at the agency; they had discerned that in English, people
will use "going and going, like the Energizer bunny," but that nobody
makes como el conejo Energizer references of a similar nature, which
means that in Spanish the battery is still a battery, not an icon or a
simile or a feeling about life. This was perhaps a situation they
could rectify. "In advertising it's not easy to be different," Oubiña
said, and sighed. "It takes 10 times as much work."

You can track part of the modern history of United States Hispanics,
in a way, through the proliferation and escalating ambition of this
country's publicistas. Forty years ago, they were mostly a small group
of Cuban-exile ad executives in New York and Miami, talking American
agencies into letting them translate ad copy into Spanish. Then
all-Hispanic agencies started opening up here, trying — often to no
avail — to persuade clients that there were enough Spanish speakers in
this country, with enough disposable income, to merit whole campaigns
aimed directly at them. "I used to have clients who said, 'I don't
want those people in my store,' " the Gallegos media director, Ken
Deutsch, who is one of the agency's only non-Hispanics, told me. "It
was all: 'Gardener.' 'Criminal.' Or just: 'They don't have money.' "

Then the 2000 United States Census data began going public, and in its
wake came the rattling headlines: at 15 percent of the present United
States population, or 44 million people (factor in an estimated 9
million Latin American illegal immigrants), Hispanics now outnumber
African-Americans. Their populations are multiplying so fast in
certain parts of the country — nearly a 1,000 percent increase in
Atlanta, for example, between 1980 and 2000 — that one recent report
used the term "hypergrowth." More than half come from or have origins
in Mexico, but the array of homelands is extensive; when Grupo
Gallegos got the Fruit of the Loom account a few years ago, Favio
Ucedo, the Argentine chief creative director, decided to Hispanicize
the four fruit guys, all of whom hover around in the ads offering
underwear advice, via some mother-country humor that in Spanish
constituted a collective private joke. He made Apple Guy and Leaf Guy
Mexicans, hiring Mexican actors and giving them script lines that
indicated they were the group leaders. Red Grape Guy became a
Caribbean, dark-skinned and the best dancer, with the lilting
half-swallowed Spanish of Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. There
had to be a South American, Ucedo decided, so he tipped his hat to his
countrymen's unfortunate reputation elsewhere in Latin America and
made Green Grape Guy an ego-inflated, overbearing Argentine, a
caricature Ucedo knew Mexicans especially would relish.

Gallegos brought Ucedo with him seven years ago when he left the
Hispanic agency where he worked before deciding to start his own shop;
and one day when we went driving around Los Angeles Gallegos talked
with some agitation about Abuelita advertising — not that he's
unilaterally opposed to it, he said, or feels anything but the
greatest affection for his own abuelita, who as it happens now lives
with his parents. "Latinos are more family-centered than the
population in general," he said. "But is that the beginning and end of
us? No. And if that's the only thing you put into a commercial to make
it Latino, the commercial is boring."

We were crossing the flat southeastern swath of the city where
Gallegos lived as a child until his parents moved the family to a more
middle-class and also less Hispanic area in neighboring Orange County.
Gallegos narrated as he drove. "Here's the church where my mom and dad
got married. . . . Here's Nix Check Cashing, where I used to bring my
grandfather. . . . Look at that store with the wheel rims. That's a
big thing with Latinos. The cars have rims." He chuckled. He was in
his own car, a silver Lexus with entirely ordinary rims. He was
wearing khaki pants, brown leather shoes, and a blue button-down shirt
hanging loose. He's a registered Republican, though he says he now
leans Independent. He majored in business at the University of
Southern California, where he was a catcher on the baseball team. His
wife, Palma, is half second-generation Italian, half
came-over-on-the-Mayflower descendant; Gallegos is still such a
devoted U.S.C. football fan that when they were engaged, he advised
her to time their wedding date outside the football season or he would
never be able to go away with her for their anniversary.

"Here's the grammar school where my aunt went," Gallegos said. He uses
English automatically, unless he's around people who prefer Spanish,
and as I looked at him in profile I contemplated the crash course in
advertising that I was receiving at his agency. One of the first tasks
the Gallegos researchers undertake when the agency begins a campaign
is clarifying who the "bull's-eye target" is — whether the ads should
be aimed most directly at Learners, say, for whom some clever
reference to their newness in the United States might help. (They did
a Tecate beer ad recently in which a young working man named Basilio
puts up politely all day with mangled English versions of his name —
"Hey, Basedo!" "Hi, Basyloh!" — and finally walks into a bar full of
Latinos, where everybody, hoisting Tecates, gets it right.)
Bull's-eyeing a Straddler in Spanish made intuitive sense, too: you're
here, you're acquiring and nos entendemos, we understand each other.

But Spanish advertising aimed at a person like Gallegos, who lives
fully and prosperously in the English-speaking United States — why
make the effort? Why wouldn't a company regard him as a
frequent-flying, golf-playing, John Grisham-reading Lexus driver and
assume they've got his attention every time he picks up an airline
magazine or watches college football on English-language TV? Whenever
Gallegos and I talked about this, he'd ask why anybody should bother
targeting ad campaigns specifically at women. "You can see the same
ads the men see," he would say.

During his "Galaygos" period, the years in elementary and middle
school when teachers regularly mispronounced his surname and he gave
up trying to correct them, Gallegos — it's supposed to sound like
gah-YEH-gos — stopped speaking Spanish to anyone outside his family,
desperate to blend in. It was in his parochial high school that he
began to "reacculturate," as the marketing terminology puts it; there,
in the early 1980s, ethnic-identity badges had become chic, and the
Anglo kids got his name right. "Then I became John Gallegos again," he
said. There are certainly Hispanics in this country who know no
Spanish — born-heres who were never chewed out by their elders in
Spanish; never curled up on a couch with a favorite aunt to make fun
of the scheming women on the telenovelas; have zero consciousness of
Sábado Gigante, the beloved cornball variety show, which broadcasts
live from Miami and is the longest-running weekly entertainment
program on TV, in English or Spanish. But the percentage who have had
the language assimilated out of them completely is strikingly small —
a national survey last year found that fewer than 5 percent of United
States Latinos say they can neither read nor converse even a little in
Spanish. Gallegos regards this degree of monolingualism, to be blunt
about it, as their loss.

"Here's my neighborhood," he said suddenly. The streets were curving
now, with broad-leafed trees and wide, well-tended lawns — $850,000
around here for a teardown, Gallegos observed. He was quiet for a
minute. His agency has done advertising aimed at Hispanics who live in
communities like his own; on occasion, when they think it's
appropriate, they'll do the work in English as well as Spanish. But if
there's any single net that can be draped across the length and
breadth of American Hispanics, it's the Spanish language itself, and
like his publicista colleagues, Gallegos is perplexed at American
truculence about assuming that full integration into this country
requires leaving the native language behind — that bilingualism in the
United States is something to be overcome on the path to success,
rather than cultivated and celebrated as a success unto itself. The
most famous immigrant in California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, had
just a few weeks earlier set off a small uproar at a National
Association of Hispanic Journalists convention by declaring that he
knew the best way for Hispanic immigrants to learn English well enough
for life in the United States: "Turn off the Spanish television," the
governor said.

We sat in front of Gallegos's house, which is white, spacious, Cape
Codish. There's a swimming pool in the back. The children were away
taking martial-arts classes or learning classical piano. The whole
tableau looked like a public service announcement for American upward
mobility, and Gallegos knew it. "I'm the poster boy for what they
think it should be like, right?" he said. "I guarantee you Arnold
wouldn't have a problem with me. Registered Republican. Thriving young
businessperson. Big donor to my university. But they don't know that I
grew up in the environment they don't want to have — watching Spanish
television. We speak Spanish to this day. We speak Spanish in the

He started the car. "If you really like me, what you're going to get
is me promoting what I grew up with, which is more diversity," he
said. "Careful what you wish for."

Gallegos invited me to a family dinner at his parents' house the night
before I left Long Beach. His mother, María Elena, had made coctel de
camarones, shrimp cocktail flavored up with chopped avocados and
tomatoes; and carnitas, shreds of fragrant pork spooned with fresh
salsa into tortillas. She swore this was nothing special. Gallegos's
father, who is also named John and worked his way up through various
businesses while Gallegos and his sister were children, owns a company
that makes light fixtures. His mother works at a public elementary
school, as a bilingual liaison for parents who aren't comfortable in
English. "She's a great bridge," Gallegos said, as his mother handed
him a plate of food in the kitchen. "That's all I do, too. We're a
bridge for the consumer."

When Gallegos's grandmother came in he kissed her on the cheek,
addressing her with the respectful usted instead of tu, and everybody
sat. The conversation ricocheted between Palma, who doesn't really
speak Spanish; Gallegos's grandmother, who doesn't really speak
English; his children, who understand Spanish but respond in English;
his mother, who speaks both languages but prefers Spanish; and his
father, who speaks both languages but prefers English. Nobody found
this disorienting, including me; my father is from Mexico, the son of
Warsaw Jews who fled in the 1920s to Mexico City, and our extended
family gatherings used to sound like the Gallegoses', except with
Polish thrown in when my grandparents wanted to mutter to each other
in private. Like many immigrants' children, I tend toward complicated
feelings about language, heritage and the wages of fitting in, and I
had come across something I was interested in showing Gallegos: copies
of two United States newspaper advertisements, circa 1910 — one for
Woodbury's Hair Tonic and the other for the Equitable Phonograph
Company. Both, except for a few truncated phrases ("Greasy dandruff?
Hair coming out?"), were entirely in Yiddish.

Gallegos's parents studied the ads, examining the lettering closely —
Yiddish is written in Hebrew characters — and Gallegos looked over
their shoulders. A century ago, like Italian and German and Chinese,
Yiddish was a vibrant language of daily life and commerce in the
United States, read all over the Eastern states in the pages of the
Jewish Daily Forward. When Gallegos's grandchildren replay his
agency's gravity ad, I wondered, will it look to them like these? Will
Spanish in the United States have been recast by then as the language
of the aged abuelitos, saluted in selective identity-establishing
vocabulary words and the names of foods and holidays? What will his
sons and daughter be speaking at their own family dinner tables?

"Anything's possible," Gallegos said. He traced one finger down the
outline of the Woodbury's bottle. "But I think there's a difference.
There was a massive ocean between those people and their home
countries. And technology prevented people from staying in touch." No
immigrant group in United States history has ever had what this era's
Spanish speakers have, in fact: an international border that can be
crossed on foot; constant back-and-forth traffic and inexpensive phone
communication to the countries of origin; the Internet, on which the
Mexican daily Excelsior can materialize onscreen every morning and two
clicks turns the entire Google landscape to Spanish; multiple networks
of non-English broadcast programming with enormous audiences; and a
long lineup of corporations eager to court these people's spending
money in any manner that works.

It was dark by now, and María Elena Gallegos rose to bring dessert: a
plate of sweet rolls, pan dulce, made by a Mexican bakery nearby.
"Both," Gallegos finally said. The languages his children will speak,
he meant — what they'll work in, what they'll dream in at night, how
they'll live. "Everybody will speak English," he said."I think it's
not going to be either-or. I think we might become a bilingual nation.
And I don't think that's a bad thing."

Cynthia Gorney teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism at the
University of California, Berkeley. Her last article for the magazine
was about the mothers of sons serving in Iraq.

>>From the New York Times

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