But sometimes I also have an opportunity to commend someone who has done exactly the opposite, showing how our other languages and cultures here are to be celebrated and promoted, not feared and smothered.
Today I get to do both!
Originally, I planned to write about the mayor of Bogota, NJ (that's pronounced Bo-GO-ta, not Bo-go-TA, by the way), who was offended by a McDonald's billboard in Spanish. He wasn't offended by what the billboard said (it was promoting iced coffee, not undocumented immigrant rights or any other political issue). No, he was offended by the mere fact that it was in Spanish!
According to Mayor Steve Lonegan, putting up billboards in Spanish sends a message to immigrants that they don't need to learn English. He labled the billboard "divisive," and called for a local boycott of McDonald's.
Marisa Trevino, in her always on-target blog Latina Lista, points out how faulty the reasoning behind these sentiments is, and just how harmful such attitudes can be.
And that was my original story, too.
But then I turned to the editorial page in the same paper. And this is what I read, word for word:
Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan objects to a billboard pushing iced coffee that was put up in his Bergen County town. It's not the cold java that upsets him; it's that the billboard is in Spanish. That sends a message that Spanish speakers shouldn't learn English, he says. In any language, that's just silly.
Además, un cartel en español puede animar a los anglo-parlantes a apreciar este bello idioma. Y, tal vez, aprender a pronunciar Bogotá.
Viva el Star Ledger and its editors for their stand on the issue, and for their wonderful use of Spanish in making their point. They officially get my new Viva La Chispa award for being a spark of support for Spanish language and Latino culture in the United States, and for doing it with a sense of humor, too! Other Viva La Chispa honorees would have to include the producers of "My Name is Earl", and the Little League International organization (see links to my previous posts to find out why!).