How to lose a primary in two words: Rick Santorum’s gaffe in Puerto Rico

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‘ENGLISH ONLY’ in Puerto Rico?

Amazing to think Puerto Rico has all of a sudden taken center stage in the Republican primaries. Now, if people in the “mainland” thought Puerto Rico’s primary would be inconsequential, they now have to thank Rick Santorum for making them interesting.

As many of you know, it seemed like not even before the jet engines were turned off in the plane that brought him here, Santorum had already insulted Puerto Ricans. One of the first issues he decided to tackle was language in Puerto Rico by saying that Puerto Ricans would have to speak English to receive statehood as well as follow other federal laws. Let’s leave aside for a minute the controversy of a language foreign to a culture as a requirement. There are deeper levels to this argument and his viability as a candidate for a multi-cultural country such as the United States and its territories.

First and foremost, as Reuters quickly pointed out after Santorum’s gaffe, there is NO federal law that mandates English as official language, not even in the 50 United States. Second, Santorum’s is highly ignorant of the law here in Puerto Rico. We have local laws as well as federal laws which, by the way, we have to follow. We have local judges like any other state as well as federal judges.


Don’t Cross Puerto Rican Voters

There are more Puerto Ricans living outside Puerto Rico than on the island. Which means that not only did Rick Santorum attack people locally, his insult extended far and wide to places like Florida, Illinois, and New York with large populations of Puerto Ricans. If he does make it through to become the Republican candidate, his “English Only” rant could cost him key votes in those states.

I can’t speak for everyone. I’m sure there are Puerto Ricans out there who agree with him. But the vast majority of Puerto Ricans believe that culture is driven by language and we are not willing to lose our culture.

They say in Puerto Rico that politics is our favorite sport. Around 80% of our population votes in the local election, one of the highest records of voter participation in the world. We take politics very seriously, and as Santorum now painfully realizes, we are listening to what the candidates in the United States have to say about us since everyone knows it could have major impact in our future…whether it is becoming a state after 114 years of colonialism or keeping our status quo for a 114 more.