If you have been around Latino politics in America or even the United Farm Workers, who today endorsed Hillary Clinton, you would know the phrase, “Sí se puede.” It is roughly translated, as “Yes, it can be done”or when chanted by a large group, it connotes, “Yes, we can.” Hillary Clinton, who likes to remind us how hard she has fought for Latino Americans for 35 years, should know it after all this time. It really isn’t that difficult, but she managed to botch it up today. It is bad enough that my ears can barely tolerate George W. Bush’s mangled Spanish and English… and now this? Please Senator Clinton, next time you test drive your Spanish, consult with your campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, Fabiola Rodriguez-Ciampoli, or even one of your Latino co-chairs. It really is one of the easier languages to learn and might actually make some of us feel like you are being more genuine in your outreach. Come on, you still represent New York, a state with a sizable Spanish speaking population. Barack Obama can pronounce the phrase correctly, even though some have taken issue with his campaign signs’ missing accent mark on the í.
You can listen to the gaffe here: “Sí se pueda is right!”
Edited to add: I am not suggesting that any of the presidential candidates have to speak Spanish. I would just hope that when and if they try to speak the language that they get some practice or just double check the basics of pronunciation. Senator Clinton has discussed her work with migrant farm worker children and has made substantial efforts to reach out to Latino voters in this election cycle. By the same token, I do think that Latino-Americans should continue to improve our command of the English language so that we may fully participate in the political system.