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Is a Latina Less Latina if She Doesn’t Speak Spanish Fluently?

LatinaLista — For evolving reasons, Spanish proficiency in this country has boiled down to that old saying “You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

What am I referring to?

Well, in the first case, it seems that the nation’s top Latin music chain, Ritmo Latino, has banned J.Lo from its stores’ racks.

Jennifer Lopez

Por que?

According to David Massry, president of Ritmo Latino, J. Lo “has refused personally to promote her new CD in any of our stores” and won’t appear at other outlets devoted only to Latin music.”

He continues to charge that “This is not the first time this has happened. Celebrities have this notion that when they reach a certain level of crossover appeal, they forget quickly where they started,” he said. “We will no longer tolerate these situations.”

Interestingly, J.Lo’s camp has not issued a rebuttal to these charges. One would think that you would not want to risk alienating or offending such a large fan-base, especially her own raza.

Which leads me to offer my theory as to why J.Lo no quiere visitar esas tiendas Latinas (she doesn’t want to visit these Latin stores):

Could it be that she doesn’t speak Spanish all that well?

The critics will jump to say “But her newest album is all in Spanish and has gotten excellent reviews.”

So what?

A lot of artists sing in Spanish but that’s not their first language or the one that they are comfortable in speaking.

J. Lo’s new album “Como Ama Una Mujer”

Anyone can sing a song in Spanish – Beyonce just did with Shakira, but it doesn’t mean she speaks Spanish fluently.

J.Lo at Univisions’s Premio Lo Nuestro
(Source: Univision)

I know that J.Lo appeared at Univision’s Premio Lo Nuestro in February. She walked the red carpet with her husband Marc Anthony and she even stopped and chatted with the carpet reporters.

She did a decent job in Spanish but she never reached the velocity at which Marc rambled. She even presented an award but who can’t read a script?

J.Lo is familiar with Spanish, speaks it well enough but maybe, just maybe not well enough to carry spontaneous rapid-fire conversations with the kinds of fans who most likely shop at Ritmo Latino.

And is that such a crime?

Are all Latinas expected to speak flawless Spanish — simply because they are Latina?

Should not being fluent in their cultural language be held against them?

Because of this fear of not being able to speak Spanish with proficiency, public figures like J.Lo opt out of putting themselves in uncomfortable situations — even if it means angering/disappointing a whole lot of fans.

Instead of blasting J.Lo, the president of Ritmo Latino should extend another invitation with no expectation that J.Lo would speak Spanish.

If the pressure is removed, J.Lo would certainly feel more relaxed and perhaps not quite afraid to face her Spanish-speaking fans.

In another case regarding Spanish, it seems the research says that those who are Spanish-dominant are less educated and have lower incomes.

In an
analysis of El Paso television station KVIA’s ratings during the February sweeps, the author noted the difference between bilingual Latinos and the Spanish-dominant and this effect on ad dollars for the tv station.

KVIA station logo

Kevin Lovell writes: You might well see cross-promotional ads touting the news success of Spanish-language KINT in the El Paso Times. But KINT builds its audience on Spanish-dominant viewers. Research shows that Spanish-dominant viewers tend to be less educated and have lower income levels than bilingual Hispanics who prefer tuning to KVIA and other English-language news. Local advertisers are savvy about this and as a result KVIA consistently achieves top local billing in the market. National advertisers still tend to think that the preferred way to reach Hispanics is through Spanish-language means. That’s why KINT dominates the flow of national advertising dollars into El Paso.

Recently I was greatly relieved to see that some agency or decision maker with Albertson’s Supermarkets finally began buying English language television in El Paso. Common sense dictates that it was not spending its advertising dollars wisely by choosing to only place broadcast advertising on KINT.

To speak Spanish, or not to speak it.

To speak it well, or not good enough.

To speak both English and Spanish, or only one or the other.

To speak without casting judgment.

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