New York Times
By Fernanda Santos
November 3, 2016
“No hablo español perfectamente,” Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia told an audience of 150 guests here on Thursday, during a political event billed as historic by the Hillary Clinton campaign. For the first time, a candidate on a United States presidential ticket delivered a speech entirely in Spanish, a language that is a synonym for immigration in this state.
Well, Señor Kaine, lo hablaste muy bien.
Mr. Kaine’s Spanish delivery was steady, confident but far from flawless.
From a stage at a community center in Maryvale, this city’s most Hispanic neighborhood, he corrected himself, repeating the word “llegaron” (arrived) after mistakenly placing the stress on the last syllable, instead of properly on the second. He spoke with ease, drawing connections between his Irish ancestry and the story of Africans who were “brought here against their will” and Native Americans, “who have always been here.”
“La fundación de nuestro país tiene raíces en todas partes del mundo,” he said — The foundation of our country has its roots in all parts of the world.
Mr. Kaine learned Spanish during a year he spent in Honduras in 1980 working with Jesuit missionaries.
During his speech here, he occasionally pronounced his r’s as English speakers do. In most cases, though, he placed his tongue where it should be — on the roof of his mouth, just behind his front teeth. His r’s came out sounding like drumrolls, even in a word as tricky as “carrera,” as in career.
He was relaxed enough to add a line here or there to his prepared comments. When he talked about Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is facing criminal contempt charges for his refusal to obey a federal judge’s orders to stop singling out Latinos for enforcement, a woman bellowed, “¡Que lo pongan en la cárcel!” — stick him in jail.
Without missing a beat, Mr. Kaine retorted, “En su carcel” — in one of the jails Sheriff Arpaio runs.
He thanked the guests for their patience with his “Castilian,” which was an odd choice of words. Castilian denotes Spanish from Spain and anyone would be hard-pressed to find a Spanish speaker in the audience who had learned Spanish in Spain.
To a reporter who asked him, in Spanish, if it had been his idea to deliver a speech in Spanish, Mr. Kaine replied, in Spanish, that yes, it had, and that it made sense to do it in Arizona because of the demographic makeup of the state.
If all projections hold, Latinos will be the majority by 2030. And this may well be the year when enough Latino voters turn out to deliver Arizona to a Democrat, which would be the first time since another Clinton, Bill, won the state in 1996.
“Vamos a votar,” Mr. Kaine said. Let’s vote.
The community center in Maryvale, between a public library and a public pool, ordinarily hosts jazz, ballet and belly dancing classes for children and adults; private music instructions; and sports leagues. (Two basketball hoops were folded up above the stage.) On Thursday, it had a mix of elected officials, community activists, immigration advocates, union leaders and teachers wearing T-shirts that read “Educators for Hillary” and “Families Fighting Back.”
Everyone who spoke at the rally did so in Spanish, from Ray Martinez, a candidate for the State House of Representatives who read entirely from a script, to Thomas E. Perez, the United States secretary of labor, who spoke off the cuff — mixing up pronouns and genders, but getting his message across. There were plenty of English-only speakers in the crowd, including people of Hispanic heritage, look and last names like Salgado and Benevidez.
One of them was Lorenzo Sierra, a city councilman from Avondale, home to Arizona’s second-largest Latino community. He said his parents forbade him from speaking Spanish at home some 40 years ago, fearing that if he did so, he would not be able to learn English. It is a common narrative among older generations of Hispanics in the United States.
Mr. Sierra did not mind that he could not quite understand what Mr. Kaine was saying. That he spoke Spanish at all, and for a whole 30 minutes, “speaks volumes of the importance of our community,” Mr. Sierra said. “It’s a sign of respect that we haven’t seen from anyone else on this and other presidential campaigns.”
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com