The Spanish-speaking community in the United States is growing at the rate of one million people a year, which means that there are already 57 million Americans (out of a total of 331) who use Spanish as their habitual language of communication or understand it correctly . This increase is having a clear reflection on the country’s Administration, in such a way that more and more notes and internal and external communications from US politicians are made in this language. This is demonstrated with data by a report prepared by The Hispanic Council, an entity that promotes cultural relations between Spain and the United States, after analyzing the public communications -on social networks, press releases and official documents- of 541 politicians in Congress and the Senate of the United States between September 2020 and March of this year.
The study, which will be presented next Monday in the Spanish Congress of Deputies, indicates that of the 441 congressmen elected in the last elections, 74 already make their digital communications in English and Spanish, which is 18% more than in 2018 In addition, of the 100 senators in the country, 28 already address their constituents in this language, twice as many as just four years ago. Daniel Ureña, president of The Hispanic Council, explains: “Translated into political language, the Hispanic community is already the minority group with the greatest electoral weight. Knowing that this vote is increasingly decisive in United States politics, the use of Spanish among representatives of Congress has been increasing.
Not only congressmen and senators of Hispanic origin use Spanish as the language of communication with the electorate, but other representatives with different roots do as well. Its official pages can be consulted in both English and Spanish. In fact, there are only six Hispanic representatives in the Senate, but they use Spanish 28. The report highlights, among them, Debbie Lesko (Arizona), Cory Booker (New Jersey), Kirsten Gillibran (New York), John Cornyn (Texas ) or Bill Cassidy (Louisiana); perhaps forced by the important percentages of Spanish speakers in their respective demarcations. By parties, the Democrats are the most inclined to use this language: 28.8% of their 222 congressmen already do so.
The US Hispanic community (61 million people, although only 57 speak Spanish) today represents 18.7% of the US population, while in 2010 it accounted for 14.2%. And, in addition, it will be the one that grows the most in the coming decades, given that the number of people under 18 years of age is greater than that of adults. This means that, looking to the future, the population of Hispanic origin will maintain a prolonged growth. 47.7% of the inhabitants of New Mexico are already of Hispanic origin, 39.4% in California and 39.3% in Texas, with growth of 6%, 11.2% and 20.9%, respectively in a decade. In 2000, only 10 States registered more than 10% of the Hispanic population, while in 2020 there were already 23 and in 2022 they have become 27. By 2060, it is estimated that this segment of citizens will reach 27.5% of the total United States: one in four Americans will have Spanish as their mother tongue.
Jackie Kennedy en campaign
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The use of Spanish did not enter US electoral politics until 1960, when Democrat John F. Kennedy and Republican Richard Nixon clashed. The Democrats then developed an advertising campaign for Jackie Kennedy, the candidate’s wife, in which she demanded the vote in Spanish. In 1988, George HW Bush’s strategists prepared up to four ads in Spanish to attract the Hispanic vote, which tipped the balance in his favor in the vast majority of states where the Hispanic ballot was decisive. In the last elections, advertising in Spanish increased Hispanic participation by 15 percentage points, which reached a record figure of 65%.
Its use in parliamentary politics has spread so much that in 14 work commissions (15% of the total) communications are made in Spanish, with Ethics being the one with the highest percentage of documents in Spanish (30%), followed by Energy and Commerce (24.1%) and Natural Resources (23.8%).
A total of 492 million people have Spanish as their mother tongue, although 591 million speak it, which represents 7.5% of the world population, and places it as the second most used mother tongue in the world, after Mandarin Chinese with 950 million speakers, and third as a work tool, after English. This strength comes from America and places the United States as the second country in the world with more Spanish speakers, only behind Mexico.
In addition, according to the report, 24 million American students chose Spanish as a foreign language in 2021, two million more than the previous year and three more than in 2019. “In the United States, Spanish is unrivaled as the most studied language in all levels of education,” says Ureña.
Just 200 years ago, Joseph Marion Hernández (1788-1857) became the first Hispanic member of the United States Congress, as a representative from the State of Florida. Since then, the presence of the Hispanic community in the country’s politics has grown exponentially, although it has gone through different stages: from the crisis of the Spanish-American war of 1898 to the controversies between its leaders about whether to assimilate or reject the political- majority social in the nation.
Henry B. González (1916-2000) was one of the Hispanic politicians who advocated normalization in day-to-day politics in the United States. The House of Representatives and the Senate were, in his opinion, the two places where Hispanics could best defend their interests. He was a representative of Texas from 1961 to 1999 and left an iconic quote for the community: “If we cry in an empty room, we can only hope to hear our voices.” When he delivered it in 1971, he did it in English. Surely, in 2022 he would have done it in Spanish too.
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