For the first time in U.S. history, two Latino candidates are running for president—both of whom are sons of Cuban refugees, hailing from states where the majority of the population are Latino.
But the only thing Latino about them is their names. Even so, Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz americanized his name.
Although Republican candidates Cruz and Rubio do not support DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) or DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans), Rubio’s parents became U.S. citizens in 1975, while Cruz’s father became a naturalized U.S. citizen more recently in 2005.
You would think they would profoundly understand the ordeals that over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the nation face, plus the millions of Latinos who are descendants from immigrants or are themselves.
On Feb. 13, the Republican debate aired and something surprising happened—Cruz and Rubio once again competed with each other not about who has the harshest immigration reform, but about who knows how to speak Spanish better.
During the debate, Rubio pointed out he was surprised that Cruz could understand his interview with Mexican journalist Jorge Ramos in Univision, one of the top TV channels in the country.
Cruz responded in hesitant Spanish, urging Rubio to talk in Spanish, which he ignored.
Confused? Me too.
The last thing I want is to sympathize Republican candidate Ted Cruz, but after Rubio said “he doesn’t even speak Spanish” and Cruz had to defend himself to prove his Latinidad, it brings up a recurring problem in the Latinx community of whether or not you are authentic enough to claim your ethnicity.
Latinxs aren’t Latinx because of their language—Brazilians, Guyana’s, Haitians are Latinxs—we are not a race, but an ethnicity.
Therefore, Latinidad is not “proven” by one’s ability to speak Spanish proficiently.
There are many reasons why someone isn’t proficient or can’t speak their native tongue. Some parents do not want their children to be ridiculed for not being “American enough” and only want them to speak English.
Or they come from a family that has been living in the U.S. for generations— as the U.S. stole half of Mexico’s land, anyone? (Hint: there were already indigenous and mestizos living here.)
Language has now entered politics. Jeb Bush has tried to speak Spanish because his wife, Columba Bush, is Mexican-American. All of this was to gain Latinx votes.
They are using their roots when it benefits them, which makes no sense. The reason why the majority of the Latinx population does not support these candidates is because they do not push for the concerns of our communities.
Rubio would not be in the U.S. or in the presidential race if it wasn’t for the financial assistance and asylum that his parents received after fleeing from Castro’s regime.
He is a product of white Cuban privilege and assimilation.
So what difference would it make to speak one sentence in Spanish or get an interview on Univision when you refuse to acknowledge the systematic oppression that plagues the people you all of the sudden claim to be a part of?
Featured Photo Credits: Featured photo courtesy of Flickr user DonkeyHotey.
Karla Casique is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.