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How speaking Spanish can be a political advantage

Susana Bates

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

About Being Latino Contributors

Being Latino contributors consists of individuals and partner organizations. They join us in our goal of providing our audience with a communication platform designed to educate, entertain and connect all peoples across the global Latino spectrum. Together we aim to break down barriers and foster unity and empowerment through informative, thought-provoking dialogue and exchanging of ideas. Giving a unified voice to the multitude of communities that identify with the multidimensional culture that is Latino.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

Comments

  1. Some are genuine, but is hard to tell who is genuine in the political field.

  2. Interesting article. While candidates who speak Spanish can reach a wider audience, I’d like to point out that I will still vote against someone I disagree with even if they speak the same language I do.

  3. It’s not ok to assume anything with anybody….ever.

    Just ask Romney.

  4. Lots of latino support Obama and he is not a latino… I don’t even pick a latin doctor even if he spoke Spanish. …. I look at their credentials and how they come across to their patients.

  5. I think it would matter for the mayor of LA simply because there’s a large latino population and some of them don’t know English very well, but not even all latinos know Spanish so I think it’s silly for politicians to think it’s going to help then with the latino population. I personally am happy to see more latinos in higher places, but I wouldn’t vote for someone just because they’re latino. Isn’t that a form of discrimination?

  6. it’s not ok to make these assumptions. it’s a gross insinuation about Latino voting abilities and that perhaps we’re so dumb to fall for these gimmicks. they’re also implying that we only vote when we see one of our own. so offensive on so many levels!

  7. What does the term “reach out” mean? Is that Liberal-speak for “pander”?

  8. It is and is not, Maxine, because I wouldn’t vote for Marcos Rubio in Florida.

  9. Reina I’m with you,!!!!

  10. “Reach out” is a commonly used social service phrase that has nothing to do with pandering.

  11. Romney thinks he can parade a few tokens in his convention, make a few Spanish ads, and pull the “my dad was Mexican” card to get Latino votes… What did you think we forgot your comments about never signing the dream act ever? or how you want to make life so hard undocumented Latinos self-depot? Or how you practically begged for Arpaios endorsement in the primaries?

    We are not impressed by last names, we want sound policies in the issues that affect our communities.

  12. Speaking Spanish conveys a message to those who do not speak or understand English, however, for most it does not change the opinion of a person simply for speaking Spanish. You must learn to connect with the people not just by speaking the language but by understanding them, this is what diversity is all about. To assume that you can get the Latino vote just by speaking Spanish is asinine. You can’t even do that at the local level let alone at the full government level. I am a PTA Treasurer and I am Hispanic and I know enough at our local level that we have to connect with people through understanding the culture not just by speaking a different language. If there is no connection there is no vote.

  13. As is this isnt enough proof of voter fraud

    http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120919/POLITICS01/209190348/1022/POLITICS/Secretary-State-4K-noncitizens-voter-rolls

    Secretary of State: 4K noncitizens on voter rolls
    http://www.detroitnews.com
    Lansing – One day after being sued over a controversial ballot box citizenship question, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said an estimated 4,000 noncitizens are on Michigan’s

  14. I get turned of by politicians who suddenly speak spanish as if that’s going to endear him or her to me. I want them to speak to me in ENGLISH!!! The only spanish I want to hear from a politicians is Cohiba. Then I’ll say, Si!!!

  15. U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism agencies should have anticipated last week’s terror attack in Libya and increased security at the consulate where four Americans were killed, a Republican senator said Wednesday.

    “This was not a ‘black swan’ event,’” said Sen. Susan M. Collins of Maine, referring to a philosopher’s definition of a completely unexpected phenomenon.

    The attack “should have be

    See More

    Senators probe security officials over consulate attack in Libya
    http://www.washingtontimes.com
    U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism agencies should have anticipated last week’s terror attack in Libya and increased security at the consulate where four Americans were killed, a Republican senator said Wednesday.
    Like · · Follow Post · Share · 6 minutes ago

  16. Unfortunately the answer has to be yes but know. Ex. In the early 1990s Puerto Ricans held great influence and power within the New York City democrat party. A mayoral candidate was groomed and would have won the election. Although he was a democrat many republican Latinos supported him. Why? Because if he failed the Latino base would loose its influence. A deal was made and he was dicarded by his own party. Overnight it was over. No power no influence nothing.

  17. Unfortunately the answer has to be yes but know. Ex. In the early 1990s Puerto Ricans held great influence and power within the New York City democrat party. A mayoral candidate was groomed and would have won the election. Although he was a democrat many republican Latinos supported him. Why? Because if he failed the Latino base would loose its influence. A deal was made and he was dicarded by his own party. Overnight it was over. No power no influence nothing.

  18. I thought Obama was a genius, but how come he can’t speak Spanish? At least Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio can speak the language.

  19. I thought Obama was a genius, but how come he can’t speak Spanish? At least Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio can speak the language.

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