Mitt Romney has won all 20 delegates in the Republican primary in Puerto Rico. He also won Florida that was thought to be his ticket to an undisputed victory in Tampa later this year.
This turned out to not be the case as Rick Santorum went on a winning streak that dampened the Romney spirit of inevitability. Newt Gingrich also did his part by winning in South Carolina and Georgia.
However, it was Florida and now Puerto Rico that raises the issue of language in a rather peculiar way. It reminds me of the time some four years that we visited Miami and found that Spanish is the rule in the city rather than the exception.
From the time we checked out of the Miami airport to the time we returned to fly back to North Carolina we spoke no English. Spanish was spoken even in places like Señor Frogs along Miami Beach.
Cubans make no bones about being the language police in Miami. The fact that their political tradition is mostly Republican has a lot to do with the lack of criticism others may have about their commitment to the Spanish language.
This may have also caused Republican candidates to shy away from the language issue in Florida in favor of jumping on Latino immigration, which has little relevance in Florida since Cubans, just like Ellis Island immigrants, only have to show up to be legal in the United States. The exclusive use of Spanish in Miami appears to have been largely overlooked by the candidates that want to make English the only language of importance in America.
On the other hand while in North Carolina I met Dr. Diane Rodríguez a professor at East Carolina University and an accomplished scholar who has become a Latino leader in the region. She is Puerto Rican and is highly respected by the Latino immigrant community that is mostly Mexican.
Rodríguez tells the story of the time after making a presentation to a university audience she was asked by one of the attendees where in Mexico she was from and if she had papers. It seems that this is typical of southern states that have anti-immigrant reputations.
Yet when you talk about Puerto Ricans you cannot really put an immigration tag on the conversation since they are American citizens. So you have to find other things to criticize.
When Santorum chose to make English a condition for Puerto Rico to join the union, he went at the basis for the cultural existence of a people who have been Americans since 1898 and do not need to be reminded that English is key to success. That is why English as a second language is a requirement in all of its schools.
Santorum carried the common disease of ignorance of all things Latino, pitching a homerun to Romney who only had to stay away from the language issue to win. New Mexico, which qualified to be a state right after the Mexican American War, was delayed in its admission as a state until 1912 because it was not English speaking enough.
Don’t you find it curious that Cubans in Miami who love to flaunt and dominate with their Spanish do not hear a peep from those who do not like the Latino language while it was the first thing that was brought up when the candidates got to Puerto Rico? This selective preference of Spanish speakers is a phenomenon that hides a great truth.