Spanish spoken at White House briefing for the first time

Add this one to the list of firsts under the Obama Administration. From HuffPo:

The White House made history on Monday. And it wasn’t just by loosening travel and remittance restrictions for individuals looking to reach out to family members in Cuba.
When Dan Restrepo, President Barack Obama’s senior adviser on Latin America, addressed the Spanish-language media in their native tongues, he is believed to have been the first person to speak a language other than English during a White House briefing.

I wrote about the new changes to Cuba policy a few weeks ago, so you can see my thoughts on that post.
I appreciate that the White House’s interaction with the press corp is beginning to reflect the bilingualism of our country, but also the world.
h/t to Tanya

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13 Comments

  1. hoolissa
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    por fin nos estan considerando cuidadan@s!

  2. Tracker
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Ah, the rednecks will have a fit. They already think that Spanish speakers here purposely pretend to not understand them and are talking about them behind their backs in “mexican”. Yes, they don’t understand the difference between a people and the language, so I’m sure this will set them off.

  3. mk
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    While I agree that some folks will probably be furious about this move, could we avoid using labels like “rednecks” to characterize the opposition? (I’m assuming you don’t self-identify as such, since you consistently used “they” instead of “we.”)
    I come from exactly the kind of place where many people freak out about the “threat” of bilingual services, but I don’t think it’s necessary to reduce these people to what’s essentially an ethnic slur, regardless of the merits (or lack thereof) of their arguments.

  4. Kate
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    That’s so rad!

  5. dormouse
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    That’s cool, but I hope the xenophobes don’t get too upset. After all, I remember President Bush meeting with Vicente Fox and speaking Spanish at their press conference a little bit. I don’t know if he was fluent, but being the former governor of Texas, I guess he knew some.

  6. Flowers
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I appreciate that the White House’s interaction with the press corp is beginning to reflect the bilingualism of our country, but also the world.
    While some people in this country may be bilingual, we’re not a bilingual country — we’re a multilingual country and a multilingual world. (Even Spanish changes quite a bit depending on which area of the world one is in.)
    I think it’s great the the White House is acknowledging such, especially when discussing issues that affect people with families in other countries (e.g. allowing them to visit their families and send money).

  7. dangerfield
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m a self-identifying redneck and am going to do my best to maintain a polite tone here. I don’t appreciate your characterization of “rednecks”–Redneck is hateful slur directed at rural people in American culture based on assumptions of backwardness.
    Some of us are bilingual liberal feminists devoted to fighting oppression of all sorts, and we run into enough bigotry here in our red states as it is. Please don’t use hateful generalizations to dismiss a group of people with varying levels of education, access, privilege and beliefs.
    You may not have meant it to be, but your comment is offensive in the highest order.

  8. dangerfield
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    This is such amazing news. I am fearful, however, that because of the entrenched forces for English-As-National-Language, this kind of respectful, egalitarian behavior will never be allowed, at least in practice, in top US governmental institutions when dealing with US citizens.
    As spanish grows in prominence throughout the country, I hope the powers that be will take notice and present their government in the many major languages of the US population.
    There’s a reason the founding fathers never defined English as the official language–we were a multilingual country when we were founded, and we are today.

  9. Skwrr
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Lou Dobbs asplode in 3… 2… 1…

  10. dangerfield
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    I think this is one of the many hidden upsides to the obama presidency–at last a globally centric concept of what constitutes a family.
    An administration that operates with an understanding of the difficulties many americans face when their family is scattered in multiple countries is a far more substantive change than any campaign promise or single policy could bring.

  11. Tracker
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    You’ll have to excuse me for speaking my mind. I do that frequently. I would classify much of my own family as rednecks. The word doesn’t really hold the connotations you say it has where I’m from. I would say most of the people where I’m from refer to themselves as rednecks, including my own father.
    A self-identifying redneck bilingual liberal feminist, huh? Nice to know those things aren’t mutually exclusive. So… since you call yourself a “redneck” how is it that I shouldn’t use that word? Is there another word I should use that would be more PC for you?
    And since this word has apparently become an ethnic slur while I wasn’t paying attention, someone should really alert Jeff Foxworthy. He might be unaware he’s using such a bad word repeatedly in his acts.

  12. dangerfield
    Posted April 20, 2009 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I self-identify as a redneck out of word reclamation, not out of some gleeful enthusiasm over using a word I don’t want other people to use. I self-identify as a redneck because of how often the word gets used AGAINST me or my peers. One of the reasons I do this is to challenge peoples assumption of what a redneck is.
    Originally redneck was a non-pejorative term for rural farmers or coal miners (depending on which origin of the word you subscribe to), but it is mostly used pejoratively today to exert superiority over a disadvantaged group. On this board, you used it pejoratively, conflating a loose collection of socioeconomic, geographic and cultural elements with ignorance and xenophobia. That is a slur, plain and simple. Its also a pretty common one.
    As far as suggestions for another word to use: Don’t use one. Its not “redneck” that’s the problem. “Hillbilly” “white trash” and any other synonyms are all offensive. You have a problem with someone being ignorant? Call them ignorant. You have a problem with xenophobia? Call them xenophobic. Criticize people for their character and ideals, not background.
    Sounds like you have a lot of experience with the word in your community. Please think about its use. Its not very different in use from terms like “ghetto” and “bitch”–words used to discredit specific communities for stereotypically negative behavior.
    Also, as for Jeff Foxworthy, I’m not fond of his use of the term, because he’s exploiting a stereotype for his own gain–and in the process willfully perpetuating a derogatory stereotype of economically disadvantaged white rural southerners. Not OK.

  13. Sonya Klarson
    Posted June 16, 2009 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    The policy both to Cuba and to Latin America is absurd – because is inconsistent.
    I do not concern now its aggressive and Zionist policy concerning the people of Latin America and in particular Cuba when it still far not was the most powerful country of the world. Optimists still cherish hopes, that Barack Obama will make serious changes to a policy of the USA concerning Cuba.

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