In April, Los Angeles Times reporter Esmeralda Bermudez was confronted by a women for speaking Spanish to her daughter at the park. “You’re confusing the poor girl,” the woman told her.
The alumna and journalist returned to campus Wednesday to speak about discrimination and the importance of language and culture. Nearly 30 students attended the event at Mark Taper Hall of Humanities.
“You would’ve seen when I left the park, I was in tears and later that night and for about two weeks, I was in tears,” Bermudez said in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “I just couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t understand why, I just knew that I had this anger.”
What the woman who confronted her that day did not know, Bermudez said, is that her daughter is trilingual and learning a fourth language. Bermudez is raising her daughter to speak English, Spanish and Armenian. The five-year-old is also learning French.
The journalist said the incident brought back feelings of inferiority and insecurity from her past when she immigrated to the United States from El Salvador.
“She made me feel like an outsider,” Bermudez said. “I instantly felt she was superior. Everything about me, from my dresses to my heavy, heavy accent did not belong and was not American.”
Bermudez explained she wanted to ensure her daughter had a strong foundation in language since she grew up not speaking English fluently.
Despite her insecurities, Bermudez now considers language her “superpower.”
“It made me feel 10 feet tall speaking two languages because I was a resource for my family,” Bermudez said.
She also said language became “a window to a whole other culture” when she married her Armenian husband.
Bermudez initially tweeted about her experience at the park, which has now garnered nearly 400,000 likes. When it first began to go viral, her editor encouraged her to write about the experience for the L.A. Times.
Bermudez said she is inspired to share her story to motivate others to stand up for themselves and speak out.
“Let people know that you have a voice, whatever it is,” Bermudez said. “No one should make you feel like you’re not whole as a human being.”