Please find below an excerpt from The day Piquito de oro Died in Chicago, Antonio Nunez's personal essay:
"This time, I landed in Chicago. I had just been hired by an advertising agency specifically because I was good with words. I have been a "pico de oro" (silver tongue) since I was a kid. Being a professional public speaker was my profession in Spain, where I was born.
My first day at work. The ad agency was at the Merchandise Mart, the world's biggest building in 1930. It’s a structure so gigantic that it has its own zip code. After half an hour wandering around those art-deco corridors and stumbling upon the same bronze bust for the third time, I had to do what men hate most: admit that I was utterly lost.
I stopped a good Samaritan and did the second thing men hate most, asking for directions. The instant I pronounced a few words, the chap looked at my mouth in shock. The more I spoke, the more he looked at it, staring with a mix of confusion and genuine curiosity. I felt that he was about to grab my chin and open my mouth wide to study it and decided to leave. Then I tried asking a middle-aged woman. From what I perceived to be gibberish, all I could understand was that she was very, very sorry. Finally, I spotted someone who was brown like me. This Latino executive patiently answered my question, vocalizing to perfection. "YOUR-ACCENT-IS-SO-THICK-THAT-I-CAN-NOT-UNDERSTAND-A-WORD," he said. "Pues hablemos español", I replied. "SORRY-I-DON´T-SPEAK-SPANISH," he said.
I was perplexed. My first stint in the US had been in Miami, and nobody ever had an issue with my accent. Besides, if the executive was Latino, was it true that he didn't speak Spanish?
In the Midwest, what in Miami sounded fluid, like Mozart, it landed as an Egyptian hieroglyphic. I learned the hard way the assumptions people can make when you have a Latino accent. "Piquito de oro" died. I lost my confidence and self-esteem. I was not me anymore. The worse part was (...)
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