Among Latinas and Latinos, language is a complex and sometimes vexing matter. Inextricably bound up in notions of identity and civic belonging, language lies at the center of contemporary discourse about immigration, education, and citizenship; as such, it is inherently a political subject. But language usage is also intensely personal, often grounded in intimate contexts and choices. While both public and private dilemmas over language arise from the pressures of the present day, they might also be understood as the product of historical forces spanning oceans and continents.

For centuries, states have utilized language, variously, to amalgamate, colonize, coopt, or marginalize groups of people. In the Western world, Latin was the Roman Empire’s lingua franca,  enabling  the  administration of vast domains composed of disparate societies and tongues. In the modern age, the French, English, Portuguese, and Spanish empires used language to strengthen and expand their imperial domains (Lodares 2007). The …

This essay may be found on page 109 of the printed volume.

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