Student Question

What are the character's feelings about being bilingual and bicultural in "Legal Alien"?

Expert Answers

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The Latina or Mexican American speaker in Pat Mora's poem "Legal Alien" describes being driven crazy by rejection by both Anglo-Americans and Mexican nationals and immigrants living in the United States.

Anglo-Americans often regard her as an alien or exotic, even though she is American and was born in the United States. Some go further and think of her in a racist manner as inherently inferior to them.

On the other hand, Mexican nationals think of her as del otro lado, or "from the other side" (of the border). Those Latinos who don't speak Spanish at all are often derided as pocho, ignorant or ashamed of their background. But they recognize her as of both cultures and able to speak both languages.

The form of Spanish the woman speaks is not standard Spanish or Mexican Spanish. There are several alternative Mexican American dialects: Spanglish, or switching back and forth between Spanish and English; Calo, most commonly spoken in and near California; and Tex Mex, which combines slang and older Spanish, as spoken several centuries ago, due to the isolation of Mexicans in Texas from the rest of Mexico. But the speaker's wish is for other Mexicans to see that she is just as Mexican as they are.

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