When someone is Mexican, they are usually assumed to know how to speak Spanish. This a great stereotype that most people have when they see or talk to someone who is of Mexican decent. Though most of the time most Chicanos do speak Spanish, there is a large population of Chicanos (Mexican-Americans) that do not speak Spanish very well, if anything at all.
Many Chicano families have been in the United States for many generations. It is not uncommon to meet a Chicanos family has been here for 6, 7, or even 8 generations or longer. As with any race of people, as generation after generation becomes more Americanized, they begin to lose their native language more and more each generation as more English is spoken. Is this a good thing? Probably not, but it naturally happens. It is always great to keep the native language spoken, and many Chicano families have succeeded in doing that after many generations, but for some Chicano families Spanish is almost non-existent.
Why do some Mexican-Americans not speak Spanish? Every family is different but for lots of families that have been in the United States for a long time it was done purposely. Back in the early and mid 1900's there was lots of racism going on in the United States. Lots of Mexican natives who settled in the States had children who were born in the U.S.A. and wanted them to speak English only so they would not face the harsh racism that many Mexicans faced. They basically thought that their children would have a better chance at success if they spoke English only. This may have not been a good move on their part, but they were only doing what they thought was right at the time. They had no idea that one day being bilingual in English and Spanish would be a benefit in the job market.
For others the Spanish language just vanished gradually through each generation as they used English in every day life. It is not uncommon to meet someone who speaks English throughout their day and only speak Spanish when they are talking to their parents. Some Chicanos speak Spanish very well, as Spanish is continually used in their family and is kept alive, other Chicanos have very limited Spanish use and are not very confident in it and would never think about applying for a bilingual job position. Then you have the Chicanos who do not speak any Spanish at all, when they speak English they sound just like any other Chicano does and you would not be able to tell that they do not speak Spanish.
Whatever the reasons are for not speaking Spanish, many Chicanos face prejudice issues from native Mexicans who are here in the United States. Chicanos may be called derogatory names by them such as "Pochos", which basically means a watered down Mexican. Of course there is also prejudice that comes from the Chicano to the Mexican natives with name calling such as "wetback." All of this comes from ignorance from both sides of the table and could make for a lengthy article, but this article is about the large non speaking Chicano population living in the United States and we will focus on that.
The whole point of this article is that we are all different and should not ever criticize anyone else no matter what language someone speaks. The subject of Chicanos and Chicanas not speaking Spanish has even come up in Hollywood. If you have ever seen the movie 'Selena" (who was a Mexican-American singer), Edward James Olmos says it best when he says that Mexicans have to always prove how Mexican they are to the Mexicans and prove how American they are to the Americans. Actress Jessica Alba has faced some heat from the Latino press for not speaking Spanish because of her Mexican decent, she is Mexican-American. Truly ignorance from the Latino press for criticizing a girl who grew up in Pomona, California for not speaking Spanish. No one has the right to tell anyone what language they shoud be speaking!