The ability to speak Spanish is a prized commodity on the campaign trail, a way to prove your bona fides with Hispanics—the fastest-growing bloc of voters—and to show your inclusiveness in a rapidly changing country. Lots of Anglos are proficient in Spanish. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a potential presidential candidate, speaks nothing but Spanish at home, and has for years. His wife, Columba, is from Mexico.
A more recent phenomenon in the political universe is politicians of Hispanic heritage who are not fluent in Spanish. Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising. Many first-generation children of immigrants don’t speak their parents’ language. The urge to assimilate is strong, and it’s a way for kids to rebel and build their own lives in America.
Still, it came as a shock to many Democrats when they learned that two of their most prized new-generation stars, the 40-year-old twin brothers, Julian and Joaquin Castro, are not fluent Spanish speakers. Raised in San Antonio by a single mother who was a political activist and ran unsuccessfully for the city council, the brothers grew up in an environment that prized political engagement, but didn’t hone their Spanish skills.