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When Rick Santorum’s Official Language Blares Idiocy

| March 16, 2012

Subtitles might help. (Marc Nozell)

By Angel Castillo Jr.

Rick Santorum has made many idiotic, exclusionary statements during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Among these, telling the people of Puerto Rico this week that they must all speak English before the island can become a state.

“English has to be the principal language” to qualify for statehood, Santorum told the San Juan Spanish-language newspaper El Vocero. His comment echoed those of U.S. English, Inc., which insists Puerto Rico adopt English as its sole official language before seeking to become a state.

Santorum is a 53-year-old unilingual lawyer and one-time U.S. senator from Pennsylvania whose late father was an immigrant from a small town in northern Italy. But Santorum is impervious to the fact that since Columbus arrived in 1493, the principal language in Puerto Rico has been Spanish. Today 95 percent of Puerto Ricans on the island speak Spanish at home.

Santorum’s “English only” comment may have negative repercussions for his candidacy and his party, since more than 50 million Hispanics now live in this country. Ten percent of U.S. Hispanics are from Puerto Rico, including 850,000 living in Florida. In fact, more Puerto Ricans now live here — almost 4.7 million — than on the island, where 3.7 million reside. Eligible Hispanic voters nationwide number 21.5 million.

florida voices columnists flaglerlive

On Sunday, Puerto Rico, a twilight zone “territory” of the United States since 1898, gets to vote in the Republican primary and some 100,000 people are expected to vote to apportion its 23 delegates. But in spite of being U.S. citizens and serving in large numbers in our armed forces, Puerto Ricans do not have a voting representative in Congress and do not get to vote for president unless they become permanent residents of the States.

Whether Puerto Rico should have the opportunity to become the 51st state remains the central, existential issue of political life on the island. On Nov. 6, when we cast our votes for president, the island’s voters will choose whether to change the status quo. They will vote on whether to seek statehood or remain a territory. They also will be asked if they prefer sovereignty in association with the United States or complete independence.

If the statehood option prevails, Congress will then decide whether the process may proceed and under what conditions. While the United States does not have an official language, Congress has the power to impose an English-language requirement on a territory as a condition of statehood.

It’s not so long ago that white racists in this country would tell people speaking Spanish to one another to “speak white.” That is the retrograde message Santorum just delivered to all U.S. Hispanic voters, wherever located.

Angel Castillo, Jr., a former reporter and editor for the New York Times and The Miami Herald, practices employment law in Miami. He can be reached here.

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13 Responses for “When Rick Santorum’s Official Language Blares Idiocy”

  1. K says:

    While I know that a Santorum primary win will guarantee President Obama a second term come November, I still cannot stomach the idea of his xenophobic and anti women, anti immigrant, anti education and anti progress agenda being validated by his nomination.

    He will take our country backward 40 or more years.

  2. Outsider says:

    While on the subject of idiocy: If Puerto Rico becomes a state, will it be the 58th?

  3. palmcoaster says:

    Most people of PR want to remain a territory…I am almost certain. Specially now, after “Sanatorium’s” rhetoric telling them that their language will be adios! Just wait and watch! Making a good bed for Obama.

  4. B. Claire says:

    If Rick Santorium and the Conservative war on women’s rights doesn’t wake up all Democrats….nothing will.
    DEMS….get out and VOTE!

  5. B. Claire says:

    P.S. Puerto Ricans are already REQUIRED to learn English in school. [Another Santorum: Michele Bachmann moment].

    These Conservative extremists really do live in a- – ‘merica is the only country on this flat earth’– world. They know next to nothing about anywhere outside their little myopic box.

    Hopefully the rest of world knows they are a minority in this country and do not represent the majority. They just have an extraordinary, loud ‘Lemming Gene’ that’s working very well for this sorry state of affairs.

  6. jespo says:

    Sanscrotum is a squeeling poster boy for birth control and the detriment to society should we fail as one people not to uphold civil and human rights laws in this country. I hope the men who vote for him aren’t married, about to be married, have a living mother or worse, any daughters. He verbally masturbates his followers with sound bites and key conservative words and these card carrying pocket pool players cream in their pants but wouldn’t know what a human heart and mind were should one fall out of their rear ends. His messages range from inane to insane, yet he keeps being pulled along by those longing desperately for the good old stone age days, and the fact that we as a people have this blubbering moron as a serious contender for the most powerful position on earth says a lot about us…and not much of it good in this regard.

    With my country’s disgusting polical discourse, inner fracture, and overall incompetence with interior issues, I urge Puerto Rico to stay where they are. They’ll be better off.

  7. Anonymous says:

    This guy is an idiot

  8. Jack Cowardin says:

    Having had the pleasure of living in Puerto Rico for three years in the nineties, I can assure you the
    ‘statehood’ referendum will never pass. Only the privileged there want unification for obvious reasons.
    The average wage earner, who is fighting for survival in a depressed economy, is luke warm having the
    US as a protective backstop. In the heart of the majority of citizens, however, is to be a free, independent
    state. Only poverty keeps this from taking traction. Santorum could not have been more a fish out of water
    with his comments. He truly demonstrates how narrow minded the right wing perceives reality.

  9. elaygee says:

    Three states have offical languauges that are NOT English only.
    Maine does all business in either french or English, its two offical languages
    Louisiana also has two official languages, french and English
    New Mexico has two offical languages, Spanish and English.
    In addition, you can live your whole life in Hawaii or California or New York or even Texas and NEVER speak English, since the begining of the United States, its not some new fangled fad.

    And why is America the only place where it’s looked down upon to speak mpre than English? Successful countries around the world have bi and trilingual educational systems. I’ve visited dozens of countries where people speak the native language of their country, the language of one of their neighboring countries and English.

    What dumbass thinks knowing only English is a benefit?

  10. John Boy says:

    If the Catholic Church had an ounce of brains they would ex-communicate this Religious Bigot who is the real American Taliban.

  11. Susan Muir via Facebook says:

    Ignorance at its best!

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