Whoops! They Tripped on Their Spanish

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary Although Spanish language advertisements have been used in the United States since the early 1960’s, they have come into ever greater use within the past ten years. The first real U.S. political advertisement in the United States was by the wife of then U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy. The advertisement, done in 1960 for then U.S. Senator Kennedy as he ran for president, was beautifully made by Jackie. In the advertisement Jackie Kennedy, speaking Spanish, asked for Spanish speaking voters to elect Kennedy on the premise he will fight Communism and make America stronger. At least the Kennedy campaign put in time and effort in trying to make the advertisement decent. These days, it seems that less care is being put into Spanish advertisements and what the candidates say to court Latino voters.

One example is what Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said to a Cuban American audience in Miami, Florida. When asked by one of the interviewers of the TV show Univision what kinds of fruit he liked, Romney answered “I like mango, papaya and guava.” The audience burst out laughing. What neither Mitt Romney nor any of the Mitt Romney campaigners knew was that the word “papaya” in Cuban slang also means “vagina.” If Romney’s staff had really dealt with the Cuban American community in depth, they would have known this. Another example of Romney’s flawed knowledge about the people he is asking to vote for them was when he spoke with a Cuban American audience at an anti-Castro speech again in Miami. He ended that speech with “Patria o Muerte, Venceremos (“The nation or death, we will win!”)!” This was an unfortunate phrase to choose for a Cuban American audience because Fidel Castro himself uses this exact phrase after all of his speeches.

Of course, Mitt Romney is far from being the only one to had a whole lot of slip-ups. The same was true for then Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2008. In an effort to fire up the crowd, she used the famed motto from famous labor rights activist Cesar Chavez, “Si, se puede (“yes, we can”)!” Instead, Clinton said, “Si, se pueda!” In all due fairness to the candidates past and present, their campaign advertisers do get the Spanish language ads right most of the time, and they do an effective job of getting their political messages across. They try to be careful not to sound patronizing, and their ads do show cultural sensitivity towards Latinos. But sometimes, sometimes you have to laugh at the goof-ups……

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