How Not to Reach Independent Latino Voters 101

I was once a Democrat, then a Republican, now I’m neither because to quote my late grandmother Josefa (regarding politicians), “¡Todos ellos son unos… pillos!” (They’re all a bunch of crooks!)

It’s amazing to see how much smack is spoken in an attempt to “appeal” to so-called “base voters”.  Polarizing, even downright stupid or racist comments are made in an attempt to appear “patriotic” and “a true American.”

A case in point is former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, who is campaigning in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico — a U.S. territory, with American citizens who can’t vote for President and have one non-voting member of Congress (Resident Commissioner).  This coming Sunday, March 18th is the Republican Primary in Puerto Rico.   20 (+3 leadership) delegates from the Island will participate in the GOP convention later this summer in Tampa.

According to the Reuters news agency, in an interview with El Vocero (a local Spanish-language newspaper), Santorum said he supported Puerto Ricans’ right to self-determination regarding the island’s relation to the United States.

Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño meets with GOP Candidate Rick Santorum (Courtesy: AP/Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo)

Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño meets with GOP Candidate Rick Santorum (Courtesy: AP/Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo)

“We need to work together and determine what type of relationship we want to develop,” said Santorum.  However, he said he did not support a state in which English was not the “primary language”.

“Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law,” Santorum said.

“And that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language such as Hawaii but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language.”

Apparently, Rick Santorum doesn’t know his history. It was the U.S. who invaded Puerto Rico and claimed it as “spoils of war” from Spain.  Puerto Rico was a colony of Spain for 400 years (and eventually was declared a province).  The Spanish language is part of the cultural DNA of Puerto Ricans for centuries and can’t simply be “relegated” to second place, overnight.

Santorum should also note that since 1902 (as part of the Foraker Act); both Spanish and English are the official languages of Puerto Rico.  Most importantly, according to the U.S. Constitution, there is no official law or designation of national language, nor is there a pre-requisite that a territory adopt English as its primary language in order to become a state.

Ultimately, it’s up to Congress to approve Puerto Rico’s petition to become the 51st state.  And while several bills have been introduced in Congress to make English the official national language, none has ever passed.

Puerto Rico as seen from Space (Photo Courtesy: NASA)

With that said, the truth of the matter is, even if the residents of Puerto Rico overwhelmingly want statehood — the current political establishment (on both sides of the aisle) will not fully accept a bilingual, bicultural island as the 51st State of the Union.  ¡Y punto!

More on the GOP Primary in Puerto Rico:

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