Yo Soy Americano

If you watched the first Democratic debate you may have been surprised (or shocked) to hear three of the candidates speak Spanish and an NBC moderator pose a question in that language.

There is no doubt that el español has become as American as tacos & tortillas. (I took the language for four years in college, achieving an accent my teacher identified as Argentine – perhaps because that nation is almost half Italian).  Moreover, the Miami debate was broadcast on Telemundo (719,000 viewers!) and Univision – two Spanish language networks. Savvy candidates figured they could multiply their audience with a little ethnic pandering.

I’m probably the most multi-cultural guy when it comes food – I’ll try anything except insects or pets – but I recognize the need for social assimilation. Ethnic and religious agendas definitely need limits if a nation is to function well. Our Italic Institute never envisioned importing more Italians or italianizing American culture. It was founded to deepen the intellect of Italian Americans and preserve the Greco-Roman foundation of American society.

The Hispanic Community is suddenly on a roll. It seems to be in a competition with African Americans, Feminists, and the Queer coalitions, not merely to achieve “equal rights” but to avenge past wrongs – to capture political power and transform the dominant culture. To put it bluntly, Hispanics want a do-over of the Mexican War.

You would think Hispanics would join us in defending Columbus, the guy who gave Spain, not Italy, an empire. Place names like Florida, Nevada, Colorado, California, New Mexico, Montana, Los Angeles, and San Francisco bear witness to that lost empire.   But Hispanics are not all fellow Latins, rather, mainly mixed blood indigenous people. In fact, at our besieged southern border there is a need for interpreters who speak the more than two dozen Mayan dialects, especially K’iché and Mam. And maybe Swahili for the 900 Africans from the Congo who recently tried to slip across (no joke!).

Despite the controversial Mexican War, Hispanics have managed to make Spanish our second language. My local school district prints budget vote notices and ballots in both English and Spanish. The polling places post Vote Aquí signs, as if ‘Vote Here’ would mislead Hispanics. Over 180,000 students in this country take Advanced Placement Spanish tests each year (versus AP Italian at 2,926). With mandatory bilingual signage, vast Spanish language radio and TV programming, and millions of illegal brethren already here, illegals would never know the Mexican War even happened.

Our ancestors had their own issues with Spanish back in Italy. The old Boot was a doormat for Germanic, French, and Spanish monarchs. The end of the Renaissance can be dated to the Sack of Rome in 1521 by Holy Roman  Emperor Charles V, whose maternal grandparents were King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel. Charles spoke many languages and famously said, “I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse.”

Besides adding to Italy’s miseries, Charles forced the Pope to deny a divorce to England’s King Henry VIII (married to first wife Catherine of Aragon, a Spaniard). That denial created the Church of England and eternal conflict between Catholics and Anglicans.

Spanish royalty lorded over the south and Sicily for almost 400 years until Giuseppe Garibaldi rejoined those regions to Italy. But Spanish words seeped into the various Italian dialects. One in particular crossed the Atlantic with the early immigrants. That word is guapo, Spanish for handsome. It became uappo  in dialect and probably connoted not just handsome but “a dandy.” From what I gathered, the word was thrown around quite a bit, probably in the late 1800s, by Italian immigrants to provoke fellow workers to earn their keep. “Eh, uappo! Venna ca!” As the story goes, uappo became “wop” and applied with different intent by English-speaking foremen.

One last word on the Spanish language:

I ordered Broadcast Basic from my cable provider only to find out that it didn’t include CNN or FOX. Instead, I have four Spanish stations, including Telemundo and Univision. As you know, you can’t cherry-pick stations, but after the Democratic debate I am motivated to demand an all-English Broadcast Basic.

I’ll let you know how far this gringo gets. -JLM

1 thought on “Yo Soy Americano”

  1. As a young boy I used the NYC subway to navigate the city. Was always dismayed about the use of Spanish for public instructions (back then there was a large influx of Puerto Ricans). Then as an adult, for the first time, I visited Italy where all the public signs wherever you go are posted only in Italian (not like France and Germany which post in multiple languages). I thought back to my NYC subway rides as I struggled at the train stations and determined maybe it is OK for cities to assist, accommodate their non-speaking English populations . . . or maybe it is better too ensure the immigrants speak the native language – ENGLISH or in my case ITALIAN?

    My Italian grandmother never learned to speak English. Never ventured far from home and never returned to Italy . . . in fact neither of my Italian grandmothers returned home. Why? . . . I will never know . . . different times . . . and much different people and values vs today.

    As for the pandering and ignorance of history . . . consider the source . . . the pandering is from the same people who want to rewrite the US civil war and their hatful history . . .

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