“One language under…”; one language up

Curator's Note

On September 9th, Univision, the media corporation responsible for popularizing the view that Latinas/os (sic “Hispanics”) speak Spanish and respond well to Spanish advertising and programming, aired the first bilingual presidential debate for the Democratic Party. Two of the six candidates are fluent Spanish speakers, Governor Bill Richardson and Senator Christopher Dodd, but they were not allowed to use it during the debate. In his handsomely accented Mexican Spanish, moderator Jorge Ramos reminded Gov. Richardson that those were the rules agreed upon. It is reasonable to assume that such agreement was based on the notion of equaling the talking field. As Univision has fervently argued to advertisers, if viewers listened to their candidates in Spanish, they would be promptly convinced by their elocution. And we don’t want anyone voting for Gov. Richardson or Sen. Dodd simply because they speak Spanish: do we?


This is a very strange and very interesting clip, Hector. Am I right in remembering that you couldn't provide us a Republican example, even if any of those candidates are fluent in Spanish, because that debate was canceled? I think you're right that it's reasonable to assume that the English-only agreement was to level the playing field, but it also points to general anxieties about over language and Americanism. Our country has a seemingly unending need to define a normative U.S. society in opposition to any population that amplifies these anxieties, even though Spanish speakers' presence in North America predates the existence of the United States. Interestingly, Bill Richardson is able to exhibit his language skills, albeit briefly. I'm curious as to whether Chris Dodd made the same move to score points with the audience. Thanks for the post, Hector.

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