San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro received a lot of praise following his keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday. But he also sparked some criticism, particularly about his Spanish speaking skills.
While the Mexican-American mayor has admitted he "doesn't really speak Spanish," he did utter one phrase in Spanish during his DNC keynote address: “Que Dios los bendiga," meaning "May God bless you." The Daily Caller criticized Castro's use of a language he does not fully know, writing he "played up his Mexican heritage by speaking a few lines in Spanish."
The harsh critique of a Latino politician exploiting his roots by speaking Spanish -- what many believe to be a required language for Hispanics -- alludes to an ongoing debate in the Latino community: Is a Latino really Latino if they don't speak Spanish?
For Castro, who was born and raised in San Antonio, learning English, and not Spanish, growing up is not particularly unusual. Though his mother, Rosie Castro, taught herself to read and write in Spanish, she rarely spoke the language at home with Castro and his twin brother Joaquin, opting for English instead. In school, Castro studied Latin and Japanese.
As Gawker pointed out, The Daily Caller also took it a step further and compared Castro's speaking ability to Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
A number of news outlets have suggested that Julian Castro represents the Democrats’ answer to Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who, like Castro, is Hispanic and spoke at his party’s national convention.
Unlike Castro, however, Rubio is fluent in Spanish, as evidenced by an interview he gave Telemundo last year.
While the comparison is an obvious one, the implication about Castro's lack of speaking skills is a bit overblown. According to the same The New York Times magazine's 2010 profile story of Castro in which he admitted he didn't really speak the language, Castro was also receiving Spanish tutoring at the time (whether he obtained fluency is unknown).
Similarly, The Guardian knocked anyone who refers to Castro as a "Latino politician," writing:
Though Julian Castro, like his brother, is grounded in the Hispanic community, to define him exclusively as a Latino politician would be to make a big mistake. For a start, he doesn't even speak fluent Spanish.
Although the hotly debated conception that all Latinos must speak Spanish in order to be considered Latino is not a new one, its holding would discount millions of U.S. Latinos.
According to U.S. Census data, 76 percent of Hispanics, ages 5 and older, spoke Spanish at home in 2009. Many immigrants may speak Spanish, but after settling in the U.S., their descendants tend to lose the native language by the third generation.
“People may check ‘Hispanic’ on the census, but in San Antonio they are Tejanos, Texans of Mexican ancestry,” Arturo Madrid, a professor of humanities at Trinity University in Castro's hometown, told The New York Times magazine.
“This is the model of what America will look like in other cities. English will be the dominant language," he continued. "Young Mexican-Americans may display minor symbols of their ethnicity — ‘I eat spaghetti, therefore I’m Italian,’ that sort of thing — but their kids will consider themselves American."
We want to hear from you! Tell us what you think about Latinos who don't speak Spanish in comments.
Also on HuffPost:
On his recent campaign stop in Miami, Herman Cain took some time to try some Latino cuisine, and offend a few Latinos along the way. After biting into a croqueta at Miami's famed Versailles Cafe, Cain asks, "How do you say delicious in Cuban?" Cuban, as many know, is not a language. In Spanish, however, delicious is <em>delicioso.</em>
"I was born in an island and I understand that food, gas and everything else, is more expensive. Puerto Rico has the right for a better future. My plan offers new incentives to restore the 40,000 job which have been lost and invests in the education of Puerto Rican kids. This coming July, it would be an honor to count with your vote." Obama is really pushing for the Puerto Rican vote. He visited the island in June of 2011. The first president to visit Puerto since John F. Kennedy in 1961,<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/10/us/politics/10rico.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink"> according to NYTimes. </a> Keep your eyes and ears open for the next spanish speech by Obama.
"Dear Friends, this is the wife of John F. Kennedy, candidate in the U.S. presidential election... When world peace is threatened by communism, it's necessary to have a leader in The White House who is able to guide our destinies with a firm hand... Long Live Kennedy!" 1. No need for introduction. As if the entire world didn't know who Jackie Kennedy is. 2. It's nice to see she's friendly with latinos and 3. Given the Trade Embargo with Cuba has been firm since 1962, we're guessing that Miss Kennedy's spanish speech wasn't exactly detrimental to her husband's campaign.
Oh yes, that day Bloomberg so kindly "summarized for the spanish speaking audience" the city's plan to clean up after Irene and inspired one of the best twitter accounts of all times: @ElBloombito. The twitter account mocking Bloomberg's spanish has over 25,000 followers. The hilarious spanish-speaking alter ego was created by Rachel-Figuero Levin. "The Spanish is just so blatantly hilarious,"<a href="http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/128711298.html" target="_hplink"> she said to NBC New York.</a> "It's the diction. It's the pronunciation. It's the accent." To @ElBloombito account, Bloomberg responded from his personal Twitter account "It's hard to learn a new language at age 69", according to NBC New York. Follow <a href="http://twitter.com/#!/ElBloombito" target="_hplink">@ElBloombito </a>here.
"Si Se PuedA!" Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, got her protest chant a little mixed up. "Si Se Puede!" ("Yes It Can Be Done") was the motivating slogan first popularized by Cesar Chavez back in the 1960's when referring to social change for immigrant workers.
"This diverse community with energy with, uh, uh, great potential and possibility of advancing our country, is going to be the one that decides the elections. And if we fall behind because we dont do the effort and or we're being irrespecutful, or whatever, then, that's lack of common sense." So, essentially, you need the latino vote Jeb?
In Mitt Romney's ninth spanish-language television ad, his son Craig spoke to Latino audiences about his father's beliefs and origins. "I would like to tell you how my father, Mitt Romney, thinks," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/18/craig-romney-mitt-mexican-ad_n_1682238.html#slide=1165327" target="_hplink">Craig Romney says in the ad, translated to English by the campaign.</a> "He values very much that we are a nation of immigrants. My grandfather George was born in Mexico. For our family the greatness of the United States is how we respect and help each other, regardless of where we come from."
Just a week after announcing his decision to halt deportation for some undocumented young people, President Obama <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/22/obama-naleo-speech-immigration_n_1619126.html" target="_hplink">spoke at the NALEO conference</a> and schmoozed away with the Latino audience. "Que placer estar aqui con tanto amigos!" ("what a pleasure being here with all these friends") said Obama at the beginning of his speech.