A polling station sign is pictured in several languages, including Spanish. (Photo/Getty Iages)

Opinion: Speaking Spanish – or being Latino – does not make you less “American”

I am done with the ignorant haters.

Once people start slamming an 11-year-old boy for singing the national anthem at the NBA Finals, the gloves are off.

Ignorance about Latinos in this country needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.

The last 24 hours presented even more examples about how anti-Latino attitudes and racism (yes, racism) continue to perpetuate this country. I could begin my thoughts with the incredibly classless and undignified manner people online treated Sebastien de la Cruz last night before Game 3 of the Finals, but I will leave that one for last, because it was the final blow to a day that saw complete and utter incomprehension of how many in this country misperceive the complexity of what it is to be a U.S. Latino right now.

Not surprisingly, my journey to Really Angry Julito started with, you guessed it, immigration. Yesterday in Washington, D.C., the Senate started talking immigration reform and I caught the whole thing. I cringed when Alabama senator Jeff Sessions said that Harvard professor George Borjas, the very same Borjas who oversaw the now infamous Jason Richwine dissertation, was an “expert” in showing how new immigrant arrivals are bad for the economy. Or when Sessions exclaimed that the immigration reform bill was written by the “La Razas” of the world. It wasn’t even noon, and I was already yelling at my screen.

Then after Senator Marco Rubio calmed me down a bit by trying to put immigration reform in a more rational light (even with the whole “secure border” myth), along came Virginia senator Tim Kaine, whose speech in Spanish on the floor of the Senate had me pumping my fists. However, I knew that Kaine’s remarks and his patriotism would get slammed within seconds. Never mind that Kaine learned Spanish while doing missionary work with the Jesuits in Honduras or that his move would inform millions of Spanish-speaking viewers who would later catch his thoughts on Telemundo and Univision; he is a traitor, according to the patriots.

As Kaine’s video went viral, the online comments and ignorance began to flow. This isn’t Mexico, speak English!, and so on. I read all the comments, and they confirmed that living in a post-racial society is a crock. Ironically, do you ever notice that people who say, “speak English,” can’t write correctly in English, and those who don’t want the U.S. to become Mexico are the first people to prop Mexico as a shining example of immigration law? So you don’t want it to be Mexico, but you do want it to be Mexico? I don’t get it.

Then along came Texas senator Ted Cruz, born in Canada, to an American mom and a Cuban dad, who was blessed with citizenship because of a Cold War U.S. policy from the 1960s. Cruz continues to insist that no immigration reform bill can contain a path to citizenship, and even though Cruz himself says that he is a champion of legal immigration, DREAMers who think they can become citizens would be living in their own dream land if Cruz were in charge. How does Senator Cruz not see the irony of his positions? In addition, does he really think young DREAMers who came to this country as kids are lawbreakers? Ted Cruz has become the symbolic Latino that non-Latino conservatives will use to justify their views on immigration and Latinos in general.

Words and actions like Sessions’ and Cruz’s matter. They can spin it all they want, but both these senators continue to perpetuate images of immigrants as criminals and bottom-feeders. Words condemning a senator for speaking Spanish matter as well, since it creates the myth that if you speak Spanish, you are not American.

Which leads me to my final point, and it is all about Sebastien de la Cruz. Last night, I saw a proud and handsome American 11-year-old boy (not unlike my own son) sing our country’s anthem to a global audience. He nailed it. He is America and what America will always be: a place where hard work and determination give you as a good a chance as anyone else.

Those who were disgusted by a boy in a mariachi outfit singing the national anthem will never get it. Let’s deport them. They aren’t real Americans at all.

julio-nbc-final (1)

Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77 ) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond.  In the past 12 months, Julito represented the Rebeldes on Face the NationNPRUnivisionForbes, and The New York Times.


  1. Reblogged this on Franky Benítez and commented:

    My latest for NBC Latino. I just figured out this whole WordPress “reblogging” thing!

  2. Reblogged this on Fondling the Truth and commented:
    “Ignorance about Latinos in this country needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.”

%d bloggers like this: