The Paradox of Spanish among Miami Cubans


The dynamic of Spanish/English contact among Miami Cubans has not received a great deal of scholarly attention, which is surprising especially if one takes into consideration that Cuban Americans are the third largest Hispanic community in the U.S. When one focuses on the existing corpus of studies, there is a recurrent feeling of discomfort as one tries to make sense of such a contact situation within a coherent frame of analysis. On one hand, there exist presumably favorable social conditions within the Miami Cuban community for the maintenance of Spanish, reinforced by positive attitudes toward the language (see López Morales 2000). On the other, these conditions seem not to be sufficient, since, as many studies conclude, Spanish keeps systematically losing speakers to English. Confronted with these facts, López (1982: 74) has conceptualized the situation in terms of a paradox: '[i]ronically, Cubans may have both the greatest potential to mandate Spanish and, in the long run, the least inclination to maintain it.'Zurer and McGee (1993: 99) make an even more dire prognosis when, in their review of the literature, they state that due to those positive factors, this community might become the exception to the ominous rule whereby the ethnic language is lost to English by the third generation.

With the present study, I aim to shed some light on the aforementioned 'paradox'. The first part of the paper briefly revises the literature on the positive and negative factors affecting language maintenance, as well as the indicators of language shift. The second is devoted to the analysis and discussion of new data gathered from the present study.


Arts, Languages, and Philosophy

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© 2006 The author & Blackwell Publishing Ltd, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Feb 2006