Following Up: Do Latino Leaders Need to Speak Spanish?

Friday, August 03, 2012

Both parties are trying to court the Latino vote, and putting Latino politicians in the spotlight. But some of them don't speak Spanish…. Does it matter? We ask Gerson Borrero, columnist at El Diario La Prensa and


Gerson Borrero

Comments [28]


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Aug. 14 2012 01:40 PM

This is such a bizarre, quasi-racist concept for a show. I mean, really? Many Americans of Hispanic/Latino descent have been in this country for generations. Would we ask a German-American politician if it's important for him to speak German or should we even assume that he would/should represent any Germans, Europeans, or any other group based on his ethnicity?

Aug. 03 2012 01:47 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn, NY

Hi, I am fully bilingual in Spanish and English. I came to the U.S. from Argentina when I was 10 and I still feel that Argentina is an invisible country even in the Latino or Hispanic community. The politicians who are Hispanic and don’t speak the language, should. I feel that if they don’t bother to learn the language of their parents (or their own native language) all they are trying to do is get votes out of the 52 million Latinos in this country. Knowing t5he language would give them credibility. Eugenia Renskoff

Aug. 03 2012 12:19 PM
BK from NJ

Yikes. I too agree with John from the office. Maria Hinojosa was unintelligible to me at times as she used her very strong Spanish pronunciation of so many words, names, etc during acouoke days she covered for Michel Martin that I lost the message.
I guess it's all the same reason why every white person in Europe is just "white" on a census, etc but those from Spain get their own special category. Why aren't all ex-Enish colonies given separate categories as sub-categories as the former Spanish colonies have been? Makes no sense. Let's just stop pretending- kids today are so mixed race it's not worth it anymore. Think about this- what if Obama didn't decide at some age to declare himself black but instead white, would we still have never elected a black president? It's just a label. Its useless. My wife's father is from Turkey. Is he Asian (he was born in the Asian side of Istanbul)? Middle Eastern? Would he be just white European (if he was born on the European side)?

Aug. 03 2012 11:34 AM
Britain crushed Spain from London, England

English is the most dominant language in History. English is also the most sophisticated language ever formed. England has prevailed over every culture on the GLOBE. Però ~ SPAIN was a disastrous, monstrous, brutal empire for a short time between the 14th - 17th centuries. Despite their pioneering work at exploring the new worlds of the Americas and Asia - they were also pillaging, conquering and uncompromising.

They were uncivilised and banal. Thus, we eliminated their empire, seized all their territories or liberated them at the behest of the Britain, the seat of modern civilisation. Indeed, you are fortunate, as many Spanish-speaking peoples in Americas are merely the residual of brutal esclavitud (!).

Bastará decir ~ the USA is a former British colony.

In England today - you speak English, or you will learn it. Thruout the whole of the EMEA, English is the bridge-language! Its how a Russian can communicate with an Italian on holiday in Kenya. Accept the reality. In the USA, much of South America, Asia and Europe, speaking Spanish is mere sport.

Aug. 03 2012 11:10 AM
Deborah from NYC

Although it is not necessary to speak Spanish to represent The Hispanic community, it would be helpful. The ability to speak another language is an advantage. We should encourage everyone to speak more than one language. The USA is the only country that sees speaking multiple languages as a threat to national identity instead of a national resource in our ever shrinking world. This linguistic paranoia hinders our ability to understand others. It is fabulous that many Hispanics continue to speak Spanish. Let us value this resource and try to teach all our children to speak at least 2 languages.

Aug. 03 2012 11:00 AM
Alice Crozier from Hoboken, NJ

The fact that ballots in NY and NJ are printed in Spanish and English suggests that a lot of Spanish-speaking people do not know enough English to read a ballot in English. The assertions by your guest and callers that most (80%) Hispanics speak English would lead to the conclusion that we do not need bi-lingual ballots. Which is it? Polling places often have speakers of other languages, Korean for example, but only Spanish must be used on the ballot.

Aug. 03 2012 10:47 AM
Coco from NYC

If you'd choose to learn language, please learn the language that doesn't share the origin. I'm so glad I can speak English, Japanese, and just began to learn Spanish. It will give the capability of understanding other cultures significantly. When I started to learn Spanish, it really made me to understand the significance of learning the language from different origin. You can't "guess" what people are saying because it's similar, so you have to try harder understanding the meaning of a word.

Aug. 03 2012 10:46 AM
MrD from MrD

Arrgh! This argument drives me crazy! I'm an Hispanic who does not speak Spanish. I live in Washington Heights and people get angry with me for not speaking Spanish. My family has been in the US for over a century, yet a lot of Hispanics look down on me because I don't have the same cultural background that they do.

Aug. 03 2012 10:46 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

My mother used to speak Yiddish all the time in our little mom and pop store, and I was so ashamed and kept begging her to stop doing so, especially in front of the customers. But she always used to slap me down with, "I'm proud to be a Jew, etc."

But today, everyone almost shouts their native languages with no hint of embarrassment. It just ain't the 1950s anymore.

Aug. 03 2012 10:43 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Gary - that is ridiculous, Canada would still be Canada.

Aug. 03 2012 10:42 AM
Hernandez Born from Bronx New York

If they are courting Hispanic votes with Spanish speakers and households with recent Latin American immigrants, they MUST speak Spanish. This has to do with politicians, not persons who are never going to run for office. If you don't learn or continue to speak the native language of your family, that is your choice. BUT it's a HUGE SHAME to lose your mother language. Parents who don't encourage their children to speak Spanish in order to make them "More American" are dumb as rocks. Having a second or third language is a fantastic gift and people in this country have got to stop b*itching that immigrants should only speak English. For the record, I came to this country from Nicaragua in 1978 as a 6 year old and I never lost my Spanish.
It's essential to know a second language and to take pride in your background.

Aug. 03 2012 10:41 AM
john from office

Why wasn't any other person found for this segment, not this clown, Gerson Borrero. The constant spanish interjections are annoying. I speak spanish fluently, but know that english is the language of the USA.

Aug. 03 2012 10:41 AM
The Truth from Becky

I hate to agree with John, because I know he is only opposed because he has a spanish "surname" (and I don't know him personall I just know He only bristles and gets sensitive about what stings him personally BUT sadly I have to agree with him.

Aug. 03 2012 10:41 AM
Alex from Soho

Love the hollow hilarity of the guy whose peremptory initial pronunciation correction was seething with just barely suppressed anger. Understand very well the reason for his frustration but don't believe this particular style of rapprochement ever proves productive. Interestingly, II have never heard a woman engage in it; only men, Am open to new contributions to my data set, of course. Maybe he'd like the host to adjust her hairstyle too.

Aug. 03 2012 10:40 AM
gary from queens

There is only one reason why pols speak spanish in public, and your guest and the examples given all confirm this:

it's to pander and condescend.

Aug. 03 2012 10:39 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Do they pine over the loss of the Taino and Yoruba languages? Talk about "mother languages" and loss of identity...

Aug. 03 2012 10:38 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Bravo, again, Sheldon !!!!!

Aug. 03 2012 10:38 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Heaven forbid people might assimilate into THEIR NEW COUNTRY !!

Only in this pandering new culture is this a negative.

We Jews don't feel ashamed to no longer speak Yiddish.

The last caller (Ralph) was devious ("you can get an edge" in jobs)and silly...."lose your identity" ??!!

How about American?

Aug. 03 2012 10:37 AM
gary from queens

Every other immigrant population wanted to embrace our culture by learning English.

The only reason some hispanics want pols to be fluent in Spanish is not to be "down with your culture", but to exploit the population that's still non fluent in English.

Bilingual nations fair poorly throughout history. Canada would be a superpower today if it had one language for public discourse.

Aug. 03 2012 10:37 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Good God, I agree with John...

The premise is border-line racist and definitely condescending. EVERY politician would be better off speaking Spanish, (except Bloomberg.)

I, would be better off speaking Spanish. But to say that the question should be a restricted to politicians who happen to be Hispanic, is ridiculous.

Aug. 03 2012 10:33 AM
MrD from NYC

Why do they have Gerson Borrero on the show? The man is a buffoon and an embarrassment to the community.

Aug. 03 2012 10:33 AM

ya just lost me...have a good day everyone

Aug. 03 2012 10:32 AM
Dorothy from Manhattan

Thought this would be an interesting segment, but that obnoxious promo came on reminding me to turn off the radio.

Aug. 03 2012 10:31 AM

Many Hispanics don't speak Spanish because there is a strong social pressure in school to "learn English", as if you couldn't be bilingual. Oddly, mainstream society puts strong pressure on children to drop their heritage language at school and then spend tons of money trying to teach it in college, so perhaps the blame shouldn't be on Hispanics for doing what they are expected to do.

Aug. 03 2012 10:29 AM
antonio from el baySide

Thanks John!
–Every one believes I should speak spanish, and I don't...

Aug. 03 2012 10:28 AM
john from office

maria hinojosa, is the worst offender, her broadcasts are full fo spanish words and names spoken as if she were La Lupe, sitting in Mexico city.

Aug. 03 2012 10:08 AM
John from office

Do Brian or Leonard speak Yiddish or German. This is my pet peeve. Why does a spanish Sir name mean that you automatically speak spanish or that you must pronounce spanish words in spanish while speaking english, like some NPR reporters. So, Mexico, Arizona, and names like San Francisco are pronounsed as if we are sitting in Mexico City.

Are Italian Americans, German Americans or any other group expected to do the same, no. It is political nonsense begun by some while liberal in an ivory tower. Hispanic do gooders follow suit like sheep.

Aug. 03 2012 10:02 AM

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