The Republican and Democratic national conventions saw many instances where the Spanish language was used. Both parties are using this strategy to obtain the valuable Latino vote. However, this could be taken as offensive. Is it okay for there to be an assumption that Latinos will only vote for Spanish-speaking individuals or those who have a Latino surname?
Political parties and politicians continually deny the use of Spanish as their strategy for acquiring Latino votes. I beg to differ and say that it is a part of their game plan. If speaking Spanish were not a part of political strategy, English would solely be spoken. The Spanish language is a powerful tool and using it has perks. It cannot be denied that politicians using Spanish have helped pull in Latino voters and the strategy will continually be used, whether or not it is ethically right or wrong.
According to Tony Castro, in the 1960s, LA City Councilman Arthur Snyder, an Irishman, used the Spanish language as a method to obtain the support from the predominantly Latino district. He was so popular that some of his constituents would state in Spanish, “Snyder is more Mexican than the other Mexican politicians.” Snyder’s powerful influence was also attributed to his ability to organize local neighborhoods, but it was his ability to speak Spanish that catapulted him to political success.
An example of modern-day politicians using Spanish to their advantage can be seen with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. First, he delivers his major speeches in both English and Spanish. Secondly, Villaraigosa showcases his handle of both languages by often doing live, unscripted interviews in Spanish on Los Angeles TV stations, as well as conducting some of his news conferences in Spanish. Like Snyder, Mayor Villaraigosa understands the powerful weapon that being fluent in Spanish is, and consequently propelled himself to be one of the most powerful and popular Latino politicians in the United States.
The usage of Spanish has also helped rising Latino politicians like San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who does not know Spanish. According to the New York Times, after his election as mayor in 2009, Castro assigned his chief of staff to find him a Spanish tutor. Why would Julian Castro want to learn Spanish after so many years of not knowing it? Once again, being bilingual provides a political advantage.
The effort that politicians are putting in to learning Spanish solidifies the case that knowing it does matter – especially for Latino politicians serving large Latino constituents. As the saying goes, “every vote counts,” and at the moment, both political parties know that every one is precious.
By Jorge Delmuro, guest contributor