Spanish Language Milestone

Ian Zimmermann


March 9, 2010

Not a doubt in the world, my Spanish language abilities have improved dramatically since arriving in Guatemala a little over five months ago. But occasionally, I still think “god, I’ve been in this country for so long, yet there are so many words I simply don’t know.”

Yesterday, though, I headed out with Ricardo, the host brother of Zuleika and regional coordinator for SolCom, to a campaign (free eye exams, reading glasses, and a couple other products) in a rural aldea called Quisis. I left the house a little before 6AM to catch a bus to another large (relative) town called Cotzal. While waiting in Cotzal for another bus, Ricardo asked me “what do you think about rights for homosexuals?”

When Guatemalans ask me the very common “so are you Catholic or Evangelical?” I hide my agnosticism in a “well, I’m kind of both.” Mainly, I don’t want to upset people not accustomed to someone so strange as to not have a religion. Secondarily, I don’t feel comfortable enough with my Spanish to adequately describe my reasons for opting to do without a religion.

So what do I think about gay rights? Well I told Ricardo…in detail. I explained my sentiments that sexual orientation is simply not a choice. And who would have thought, but Ricardo agreed wholeheartedly. Apparently he has many gay friends and believes gays should have the rights of straight couples…with the exception of marriage.

But that’s when I dropped Spanish like a pro, making the case for same-sex marriage due to hospital visitation rights, taxation, and adoption purposes. And hot damn, I just might have even turned Ricardo into a supporter of gay marriage.
Though short-lived, it was a moment I could point to and say “wow…there’s no way I could have even begun to say that when I got here.” So while I remain very hesitant to call myself a fluent Spanish speaker, I’ve gotten better. Perhaps good enough to start to throw in a “no tengo una religión, porque soy agnóstico” and even explain myself.

Ian Zimmermann