In May or June 1956, when I was 12, my parents planned a summer trip into Mexico with several of their best friends. I would be sent to Blue Mountain Camp in the Catskills, near Pine Hill, New York. But to enhance their trip, they hired a large stately black man with graying hair, a Dr. Marc Desgraves, a Haitian, to teach them some Spanish.
Now as it happened I had started my own study of Spanish nine months earlier, in Señor Zago’s twice-a-week class at just-opened Van Wyck Junior High in Queens. I had been picking it up quickly, in part because I loved the language itself, and I enjoyed teaching myself the Latin American pronunciation instead of the proper — but in my mind less useful — Castilian that was then taught students. Spain had another decade or two to go under Franco, and who would want to visit there in the meantime? [more…]