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Walla Walla, WA
Friday, December 8, 2023

Speaking Two Languages, Embracing One World

April 13, 2023

The Hispanic Experience at WWU

Kudzai Mhondiwa

Walla Walla University is home to a diverse array of cultures and backgrounds. Today we’ll embark on an exploration of what it truly means to be part of the growing Hispanic community at WWU and in the rest of the country. 

Of the 333 million people living in America, 62.9 million are Hispanic and Latino. [1] WWU is home to over 1,200 students, 21% of which are of Hispanic or Latin origin. [2]

Geographically, WWU is found in the wine valley of Walla Walla, which has a population close to 40,000 and a pronounced population of 7,366 Hispanics within the community.  

A recent poll conducted by The Collegian found that from a group of 26 students, 42% of students could speak fluent Spanish. [3] Data from shows almost half a classroom of bilingual students as having “benefits like stronger multitasking skills, creativity, and working memory.” [4]  

Photo of Valeria Maldonado by Valeria Maldonado.

Valeria Maldonado, a sophomore social work major, highlighted her own use of both English and Spanish in her learning, including using contrasting words to retain class material. Something so simple yet complex as distinguishing one color from another, and in this case one language to another, can be quite challenging. Maldonado’s comprehensive skill grants her the ability to understand the world from a wider perspective. 

“If I have to memorize something and it's hard to memorize, I memorize it in Spanish because it will stick out since the rest is in English,” said Maldonado. [5] 

Diversity within the United States has increased, while the white population has decreased from 63.7% to 57.8% of the population from 2010 to 2020. [6] WWU’s student body reflects this cultural breakthrough becoming more prevalent in our country. Spanish, among many other languages, has become a means of connecting nations. It becomes more challenging to pin America as an English-speaking nation with research that shows “over 350 languages are spoken throughout homes in the United States.” [7] 

While English is the most spoken language in the U.S. (with Spanish as the second most spoken language), the U.S. does not have an official language. Maldonado went on to answer whether the United States has an official language, saying, “No, I don’t think so because the U.S. has a lot of diversity. So many languages are spoken. As a social worker, I am going to be able to help twice as many people.” [8] 

Monoglot, those who speak a single language, find themselves distanced by the untapped potential of interacting with those from a different background, and in various ways miss out on the celebration of what makes us different.  

University students with flags by Syracuse University News.

Hispanic representation at WWU has become an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to not only take part in this celebration but also recognize the contributions the Latino and Hispanic community continues to have within the United States.  

Some notable American Spanish speakers include the human rights activist and Mexican American Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America; Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor, who became the first Latina to serve on the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States; and composer, songwriter, and Grammy Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was responsible for redefining the entertainment industry. [9] 

As we commemorate Hispanic milestones, we are reminded of the power of Hispanic culture and languages. Through this observance, we can build bridges between people and embrace cultural diversity. 



  1. U.S. Census Bureau quickfacts: United States. (n.d.). ttps:// 
  2. Interview with Dale Milam, 4/3/2023. 
  3. THE COLLEGIAN [@aswwucollegian]. (2023, April 3). [Story Poll]. Instagram.  
  4. Why bilingual students have a cognitive advantage for learning to read.  (2019, January 29). 
  5. Interview with Valeria Maldonado 4/3/2023. 
  6. Jensen, E. (2022, June 10). The chance that two people chosen at random are of different race or ethnicity groups has increased since 2010. 
  7. What are the top languages used in the U.S.? (n.d.). Propio Language Services. 
  8. Interview with Valeria Maldonado, 4/3/2023. 
  9. Power of the purse: The contributions of Hispanic Americans. (2021, December 14). New American Economy Research Fund. 
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