“La Mano!” My little hand placed a pinto bean on the image of a hand. “El Cantarito!” Nervously, I watch others as they got one step closer to yelling out, “LOTERÍA!” I loved playing lotería growing up. It was something that we mostly played at special events such as birthday parties or holiday gatherings. Lotería is a Mexican game of chance similar to America’s bingo. The objects represented on the cards along with the written text are given more importance than the numbers. The images on the traditional cards were a reflection of daily objects in Mexican culture. In this series, I take from the objects in my own experiences as a chicana living in the United States. But I’m also parodying the original game of lotería with some of my objects. I change the meaning of some of the original cards with my objects. For example, “The Chalupa” from the original card “La Chalupa” is no longer an image of a woman on a canoe, which is what the word means, but an image of a Taco Bell dish, the Chalupa.
Because the cards have text on them, it gives me the chance to play with language. I’m playing with two languages in this series, pachuco and caló. Pochismos or anglicism’s are words adopted from the English language. For example, the text underneath my image of a sweater reads ‘suera’ a word that doesn’t exist in the Spanish language but was adopted or anglicized from the English word ‘sweater.’ Caló was a rebel tongue-- a code tongue-- a type of slang originating in the southwest to fight authority of both Spanish and English speakers. I never really spoke much caló, just a few words or phrases here and there, but I grew up hearing it at school. The text underneath my image of a skeleton reads 'la pelona' which literary translates to 'the bald,' but in caló means ‘death.’
Language is a huge part of my identity. I grew up speaking Spanish. It was my first language until I was old enough to go to school. I learned English in school along with all of my other friends, but we also grew up learning and speaking Spanglish. When I decided I was going to get a Spanish degree, I knew that I would have to fight the urge to mix the two languages together as if they were one. I always felt and still feel uncomfortable speaking Spanish to Latinos because I’m afraid of their judgment. I’m afraid they’ll tell me that I’m butchering their language. I always felt I was speaking incorrect Spanish, but it was all I knew. Now I realize that my Spanglish is not incorrect. It is a result of my reality as an American who identifies strongly with Mexican culture. As Gloria Anzaldúa states in her book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, “Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity—I am my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself.” In this sense, this series is a way for me to legitimize my language. This is my way of resisting the criticism that says my language is “inferior” both from Anglos and Mexicans.