Coco Fusco Interview Reflection
Friday, September 28, 2018
The Interview by Coco Fusco in English is Broken Here discusses an interesting perspective on bilingualism and it’s relation to the American-Mexican border and immigration. Through the discussion of language, bilingualism and it’s relationship with immigration the interview paints a picture of the lives of Americans, Mexicans and Chicanos who live on the border.
Within the article the interviewee, artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña, mentions the double standard that bilingualism holds between immigrants and people who speak the native language of wherever they may live. When people immigrate to the United States from Mexico or Latin America they are expected to learn English to fit in and adapt to American Society. However, English speaking Americans are never expected to learn Spanish, a language that almost a majority of the country now speaks. Instead, they are applauded if they speak two languages, when immigrants are chastised for not speaking their second language perfectly.
Another way that Guillermo discusses language is through the nuanced differences of how a language is spoken. He describes Spanish as a language that is poetic and descriptive. In contrast he describes English to be more blunt and straight to the point in it’s writing style. This creates another language barrier that isn’t often acknowledged. Rather then Guillermo having difficulties actually speaking English, he describes his issues with adapting to the style that English speakers like to write in. Specifically, when submitting writing he will be instructed to edit things down and get straight to the point. When in Mexico, his writing would have likely not faced this same criticism. Within this he faces a challenge, but also a unique opportunity. By writing in English, but with a Spanish style of writing, he now has the opportunity to bring a new perspective and style of writing to American and English speaking readers.
Guillermo also discusses in his interview how he uses language as a factor to influence his performance art. Depending on his audience, whether they are Americans, Mexicans or Chicanos, the language of his performances will alter. What is particularly unique about this, is that rather then switch his performance to entirely Spanish or English for a performance, he will instead make it 75% one language and 25% the other. By doing this he hopes to make the audience uncomfortable within that quarter of unknown. This presents an interesting method of the use of language in art. Like most artist, he wants to make a statement and make his audience think and maybe even question themselves from the piece. He does this through language. Imagine being someone in the audience who doesn’t speak Spanish, only English. For those few minutes of Spanish, however long they may be, you would be incredibly uncomfortable. Possibly initially confused, and then you may even feel bad and believe you’re the only one not understanding the show. In this way he causes his audience to think about bilingualism and it’s impact on people’s everyday lives. He almost in a sense puts them in the shoes of a new immigrant who doesn’t speak or understand the language.
Overall, Guillermo’s interview shows language’s profound and multidimensional impact on our lives. Language impacts not only our ability to communicate simply with others, but also to express ourselves and understand the world around us. Within this context, language poses an incredible barrier to immigrants who are expected to learn a new language to assimilate to their new home.