Tanya Maria Barrientos wrote the essay "Se Habla Espanol" in order to express her struggle with accepting her heritage with pride, as well as her struggle with being a Latin woman who did not speak Spanish. Barrientos explains how she was born in Guatemala but moved to the United States when she was three years old with her family. During this time, her parents decided that their children would not speak any Spanish and would only focus on learning to speak, read, and write English. They made a great effort to Americanize their children. This was the root of Barrientos struggle. .
Barrientos equated speaking Spanish to poverty and working in low paying jobs such being a housekeeper or waitress. She felt complimented by people who did not refer to her as a Mexican. She even recalled one memory where she started school a week later because she went on a trip to Washington D.C. with her family and having the school's registrar frown and criticize her mother for bringing her children late to school. She told her, " 'you people. Your children are always behind, and you have the nerve to bring them late?'" Her mother replied that her children will be one of the most successful in their class. This experience really played an essential role in Barrientos life as she felt even more embarrassed of her heritage, and her desire to suppress it was growing. She was so focused on what society's view on Latinos in America was. .
As she got older, she expressed to her father how much she detested being referred to as Mexican. He wanted her to understand that Mexico was indeed beautiful and that she should not be offended by those comments so he sent her to Mexico for the summer. She was very surprised that she did indeed enjoy Mexico and the culture which led her to a new dilemma. She did not know how to speak Spanish. This made her want to learn the language and embrace her culture a little more.