I decided to put all new works aside and develop the musical that brought me to Can Serrat in the first place: Mi Boca.
It is Spanish for “My Mouth.” 2 years ago when I wrote this in advanced playwrighting, I named it Housewarming because I thought my biggest fear was moving to a new house. Traveling to my 3rd country, I’ve realized that location is not the case. I love to get lost and found again. My biggest fear was and has always been languages: learning the new ones, losing the old ones. I often imagine what that fear was like for my Ma, who moved to America from Panama when she was nine in the 70s. She switches from English to Spanish, to Patwa and all the mixtures in between like an American symphony. She sounds the most like home. She is the first one I called when I landed in Spain.
Everyone I befriended on this trip had something to say about language:
Checking in at the Atlanta International Airport
A YOUNG AMERICAN PILOT: Cantonese is a difficult language to learn. It’s tonal — You can say the same word 7 different ways and it means completely different things… I went to see a comedian while I was in Hong Kong, he had this joke where he would say “gou” over and over again, but in different tones. The crowd was cracking up, but I had no idea what he was saying… Anyway, I was really fortunate that the primary language in Hong Kong is English.”
Getting on my connection from Toronto
AN AMERICAN MOM: After college, I moved to a small town in Canada where they only. Spoke. French. It was the greatest time of my life because I learn the language the way anyone should: with the locals. When I learned their language, I could live their life — Oh right now? I’m going to the south of France for the week with some girlfriends. Are you wearing an R2-D2 sweater right now? Man, you’re so cool. Good luck with your residency!”
Watching Son of Patricia on Netflix
TREVOR NOAH: South Africans speak English. Americans speak American.
Standing in the Metro to Maria Cristina with a retired Texan couple:
WIFE: You know, Spanish is just as much an American language as English is… with how unique your family is, you may be the most American out of all of us.
HUSBAND: Don’t worry about [learning] Spanish. It’ll work itself out.
Sitting on the bus to Can Serrat
A SPANISH USER EXPERIENCE PROFESSOR: I took this eh… exam to certify in Catalan. The exam was for 5 hours… I wanted to know my language better than anyone because I have so much pride for my country. I am sure you feel the same when you write — Americans always say that it is difficult to learn [new languages]. It’s simply not true. I think, the best thing to do is be patient with yourself. Give it time.”
We were in the middle of talking about American immigration and Cataluña independence when we stopped in El Bruc, a small town; my favorite kind of town.
I walked into Can Serrat, an old Spanish mansion with artists from Singapore, United Kingdom, Norway, Cataluña, and Pennsylvania. The diversity in this community is so special, so vast, as is the talent. Can you imagine what the conversations are like? I’d show you if I wasn’t so jet lagged. In a nutshell, if all the residents were the cast of RENT, I would be Mark Cohen, particularly in this scene:
Like Cohen does in New York, I want to embrace Spain just as tight as I have learned to embrace myself. I want Mi Boca to be the most authentic self-portrait of my upbringing. I am so grateful to be in such a warm-hearted country, where I can reflect on the voices who created mine.