‘Saved by the Bell’ Revival Has One of Those Spanish Teachers – Yes, You Know The One

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One of the few things ubiquitous to the experience of growing up Latine in the United States – whether you grew up speaking Spanish or not – seems to be the Spanish teacher who, somehow, was convinced he/she knew more about the language than kids who regularly spoke it at home, or worse, was qualified to teach it and preach about an entire culture to kids from that very culture, even if the Spanish teacher was not.

Raise your hand if you also had one of those.

Saved by the Bell season 2 doesn’t really pull any punches, in any regard. From Joss Whedon jokes to JK Rowling jokes, the show leaves no stone unturned. And though it thankfully avoids the bigger missteps of season 1, the show still has time to tackle some big issues. In episode 7 of Season 2, titled “La Guerra de Aisha” the issue Aisha, Daisy, and hey, even a Slater the show hasn’t forgotten is also one of us, are tackling is a Spanish teacher who thinks he knows better than people from our communities. 

He learned Spanish from a book, after all. Evidently, one that was written in Spain.

Saved by the Bell plays it off as a joke, and in the end, Aisha gets her way, the teacher is fired and Slater – who all things considered is probably the best choice around – takes over the class. We never actually see Slater as a teacher, though, the joke turned lesson ends there. Except for so many of us, it’s more than a joke. Because despite the fact that this is the first time I’ve seen this situation depicted on TV, I’ve had my own similar experience, and I know a lot of others who have.

Being Latine is more than speaking Spanish, of course. The language doesn’t determine our place in the communities that make up Latin America, and not everyone in Latin America speaks Spanish, to begin with. But that doesn’t make the weaponizing of the language against us any easier to handle. That doesn’t mean that being told you don’t speak Spanish “the right way,” isn’t incredibly hurtful, or that it doesn’t leave you second-guessing your identity.

Particularly since the Spanish, I learned in Panama is very different from the one of my cousin in Costa Rica, or the one that grew up in Houston. My friends in Mexico use words I don’t understand in contexts I would never use them in, and in Argentina some of the words they use mean the exact opposite. And none of them are wrong. 

The Spanish language is a living thing, just like our heritage. And no one, but particularly not a Spanish teacher who learned the language from a book written in Spain, should get to tell us how to speak, what the words we use mean, or what our language, or our culture mean.