The story of my love for the Spanish language and my journey to bilingualism is rooted in my childhood, as are so many of our adult passions. I’m a native of New York City, born in the Bronx and raised in Yonkers, New York. For years my grandparents had a small store – popularly known as a "candy store," although this peculiarly urban type of establishment has absolutely nothing to do with See’s or Whitman’s chocolates, as any New Yorker of a certain vintage can tell you – in a predominantly Puerto Rican and Dominican section of Harlem, between Upper Broadway and Riverside Drive. Think West Side Story, and you’ll have some idea of the ambience in which I grew up. It was there, nearly every weekend of my formative years, that I first heard and fell in love with spoken Spanish, in this case the rapid-fire, staccato, Caribbean variety spoken by my grandparents’ neighbors. Everything that emanated from those neighbors’ apartments still pervades my memory: the pungent aroma of sofrito, the cadences of salsas, plenas, and boleros, the panorama of people in the streets, speaking words I couldn’t understand.
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