American LifeLegal Alien

Julián Castro no habla español, so what?

Speaking Spanish isn't a requirement to be Latino, but it definitively helps those seeking to represent us in government.

By Jeannie Rivera Sep 14, 2012 11:07AM

Every now and then the topic of whether the ability to speak Spanish is a requirement for a person of Hispanic heritage to be a worthy representative of his or her Latino peers alborota el gallinero . Ruffles feathers, that is.


Most recently, it was San Antonio mayor Julián Castro who endured criticism for not being fluent in his grandmother’s native tongue.  The British paper The Guardian even cautioned against defining Castro as “a Latino politician” because he doesn’t even “speak fluent Spanish.”


The notion that a Latino can’t be a Latino if he or she doesn’t speak Spanish is right down silly. According the most recent U.S. Census figures, 76 percent of those who identify themselves as Hispanics speak Spanish at home. The other 24 percent, like Castro, doesn’t. But like him, they define themselves as Latinos because they have an irreplaceable connection to the culture, heritage and values of their ancestors.  At the end of the day, those are the things that shape us and make us who we are, thus they are undeniably Latinos.


Having said all that, a Latino politician that doesn’t speak Spanish is inherently handicapped. (To Castro’s credit, he is learning Spanish.) Languages are about much more than naming objects or describing actions. They are windows into the soul of a culture and provide an instant bond with the people that speak it.


I don’t see how a Marco Rubio would’ve enamored his Florida constituency if he weren’t fluent in Spanish. The same goes for Bob Menéndez in New Jersey, a Henry Cisneros in Texas and a long list of others. Language wasn’t necessarily the determining factor in every case –these are also bright, energetic leaders with crossover appeal- but I dare say it helped put them over the top. Being able to navigate the same cultural and linguistic duality most Latinos live in, certainly counted on their favor. That was the glue that made their message stick, whether they were talking to farm workers, students or businessmen. A language that linked them to the same culture was what they all had in common.


This is a fact that many non Latino politicians have recognized and valued when reaching out to the masses. It is often said that Jeb Bush was the first Hispanic governor of Florida. Although before him there had been at least one governor of Spanish heritage, none spoke the language. Jeb is fluent in the language and navigates the culture with complete ease. He reaped the benefits of that. A majority of the state’s Hispanics voted for him. Twice.


Again, it would be way simplistic to assume that Jeb was elected governor just because he speaks Spanish. Likewise, language alone doesn’t determine anyone’s ethnicity or cultural identity. But its is, nevertheless, an invaluable skill to bond and connect with our own.






Sep 14, 2012 1:17PM
Actually, although it is not essential language does play a crucial role in cultural identity
Sep 14, 2012 2:16PM
I'm sorry but I believe it plays a crucial role in identity and acceptance. My mother is Spanish and my dad is Mexican/English. I carry an English last name and have blue eyes. I get questioned all the time if I speak Spanish because I don't have a Spanish last name.  

In the USA if you don't have the stereotypical look then you aren't considered Hispanic. I speak Spanish more than most Latinos I meet here. I find it funny that they identify themselves as "Mexican" or "Puerto Rican" and they were born in Chicago. 
Sep 15, 2012 1:32PM
My wife was a Latina and her command of Spanish ebbed and flowed over the years with the opportunity to use it. When she was fluent she was a part of her culture and the whole household benefited. Isn't your language such a part of you that it links you to your roots? Too many generations had passed for me to speak Gaelic but that was a link I would have enjoyed and no one would have questioned.
Sep 14, 2012 3:23PM
Is very important the language for identification with their electors, in my State all 3 mayors elects in years are bilingual but in top political relation they speak only english,( the official) at least 70% of the latinos are from puertorrican descent amd 50% are bilingue, and for the youngers the english is theit choice for comunication, the olders choice is the spanish
Sep 14, 2012 9:27PM

Language is the specifically capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of , and a language is a specific instance of such a system of complex communication. The scientific study of language in any of its senses is called .

Humans language through social interaction in early childhood, and children generally speak fluently when they are around three years old. The use of language is deeply entrenched in human . Therefore, in addition to its strictly communicative uses, language also has many social and cultural uses, such as signifying group , , as well as for and .

Yet another definition sees language as a system of communication that enables humans to cooperate.

Speaking the native language of a community through a Speech, will set the bridge and frequency to vibrate and communicate effectively the willing to cooperate together for a better World with a Native Language Speaker as the Leader with which any Spanish Speaker will be able to enable clear messages that will touch the hearts of a Spanish Heritage Community.




Sep 16, 2012 2:08PM
You are very IGNORANT about what you called "Illegal" people. You are ILLITERATE and fundamentalist mormon...Very disgusting !!!!
Sep 14, 2012 4:13PM
If the person is an American politician, then absolutely not.  That's ridiculous.  We have no official language here.  People, get over it.

What a joke--NUMBERS USA of illegals, illegitimates does not a nation make:

  Perhaps it is time to learn Chinese--because the Race=666=LaRaza contributions do not ad up to survivial of a nation--the proof is in those that they departed from and ran to here with the majority pregnant or heathen breeders via sperm donors or recipients of womb to tomb et all the most recent being the theft of the   U S  D E A D   M I L I T A R I E S

seats in USA's TAXPAID   U N I V E R S I T I E S  =   DREAM ACT!

  GOD doesn't reward illegitimacy, theft, nor fornication, nor adultry, nor worshiping idols..
  EVIL vs One Nation Under GOD

   Harbinger warned--direct from GOD the hour-glass is running....................................

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About the author
  • Jeannie RiveraJeannie Rivera

    Jeannie Rivera is an independent writer and former newspaper reporter who lives in Central Florida with her family, a guitar, a few orchids and a bunch of books. She doesn't have pets and this is unlikely to change. She's penned stories for The Miami Herald, The Orlando Sentinel, BBC Mundo, AOL and others. She was raised in Puerto Rico where she learned to sing, cook good food, be a good mom and throw boisterous parties (she gets great story material from these.) She enjoys traveling, good wine, great books, her two boys and sleeping.