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United States: Spanish Stands Out in Political Conventions

In the race for the White House, the political conventions held at the end of August and beginning of September served as a showcase for the Republican and Democratic parties. Following tradition, each party gets an hour during primetime to choose the official presidential candidate. While presenting their future leaders, party members launch mutual attacks and promote campaign programs.

This year various Latino leaders from each party took the podium, such as Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio (of Cuban descent) while Democrats ceded the platform of the Time Warner Cable Arena to the Mayor of San Antonio, Texas,  Julián Castro (of Mexican descent). Among other Hispanic figures with prominent roles at the Democratic Convention were journalist and television personality Cristina Saralegui, and Benita Veliz, a representative of the DREAMer movement that advocates for undocumented students hoping to legalize their immigrant status.

Obama-Romney: The face-off Latinos are waiting for. Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Obama-Romney: The face-off Latinos are waiting for. Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The conventions demonstrated the continuously growing importance of the Spanish language. Speakers from both parties incorporated Spanish phrases during their speeches in English: Rubio said “'En este país, ustedes van a poder lograr todas las cosas que nosotros no pudimos”.

“In this country, you will be able to achieve all the things that we could not.”

Castro also recalled what his grandfather used to say to him as a child: “Que Dios te bendiga” (May God bless you).

Although the conventions acted as a barometer of what will be a tough battle for the presidency, it remains to be seen how Hispanics, who have voiced many concerns, will react to the proposals made by President Obama and Mitt Romney. Some Latino activists express disappointment with Democrats because of their immigration policies—such as the UndocuBus, that took passengers to Charlotte, North Carolina to place pressure on President Obama to resolve the immigrant status of thousands of undocumented persons. Others are worried about Republican proposals—as we mentioned in an earlier post—in regards to social issues. However, some of these doubts may dissipate in the event that the Spanish language channel Univisión arranges a bilingual meeting between the two candidates. The television event, titled “Conozca al Candidato” (Get to Know the Candidates), has yet to set a confirmed date.

Blogs like Ignacio López's believe conventions not only serve as a platform for future leaders of each party but also seek to win the votes of undecided voters, who can determine the course of the country for the next four years at the eleventh hour:

En la actualidad las Convenciones siguen un guión cuidadosamente construido que tiene por objeto dar un espacio a los liderazgos emergentes para darse a conocer- sin opacar al eventual candidato- así como crear un foro en el cual el partido político puede transmitir un mensaje, sin interferencias, al electorado norteamericano. Estos eventos se basan en un equilibrio cuidadoso, se pretende agradar a la base- generalmente el espectro más radical del electorado- a la vez que se coquetea con los votantes indecisos- generalmente la sección moderada de la ciudadanía.

Currently, the conventions follow a carefully constructed guide intended to provide a setting for emerging leaders to make themselves known- without detracting from potential candidates- as to create a forum in which a political party can present its message to the North American electorate without interference. These events are based on a careful balance of striving to please the party base- generally the most radical spectrum of the electorate- and flirting with undecided voters- generally the moderate section of the population.

Germán Yanke (@germanyanke) speaks about the role of Latinos in past conventions:

@germanyanke: Es curioso. En las convenciones de los partidos en Estados Unidos siempre hay un hispano “electrizante”.

@germanyanke: It's interesting. In the party conventions in the United States there is always a “shocking” Hispanic.

On the subject of race, the Puerto Rican television network Wapa Televisión (@WapaTV) predicts the Latino vote will be huge:

@WapaTV: Activistas anticipan un aumento en el voto hispano, tras sendos llamados en las convenciones republicana y demócrata. http://ow.ly/dycg7

@WapaTV: Activists anticipate an increase in the Hispanic vote, thanks to calls to action during both the Republican and Democratic conventions. http://ow.ly/dycg7

Gonzalo Dieguez (@gonzadieguez) stresses the influence of the Hispanic vote:

@gonzadieguez: Porque es importante el voto hispano en EEUU? Porque representan el 16% de la poblacion americana y el 10% del electorado en estados claves

@gonzadieguez: Why is the Hispanic vote important to the United States? Because it represents 16% of the American population and 10% of the electorate in key states

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