A debate en Español for Texas GOP senate candidates? ¿Por qué?

The idea of a televised debate in Spanish between the two Texas Republican candidates for Senate has sparked the fancy of a national media. Rumors circulating that top GOP vote-getters Ted Cruz and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have agreed to an all-Spanish forum on Univision is apparently wishful thinking, according to The Texas Tribune. A Univision reporter apparently made the suggestion and the idea took a life of its own.

Cruz, the Canadian-born son of Cuban refugee parents, is not very hot for the idea. The former Texas solicitor general — Princeton and Yale Law-educated — grew up speaking “Spanglish” in the Lone Star State. Dewhurst learned Spanish as a CIA agent stationed in Bolivia. The lieutenant governor seems open to the idea of debate in his second-language while Cruz defends his poor Español partly in English and partly in Español: ” In any language, parece que el Señor Dewhurst les tiene miedo a los votantes de Texas.” This translates as: “It seems that Mr. Dewhurst is afraid of Texas voters.”

While somewhat entertaining this political sideshow in the Republican battle for a shot at replacing retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison does highlight the often over-looked fact otherwise buoyed by ignorance that “all Hispanics aren’t Mexicans.” In fact, all Hispanics don’t speak or even cannot speak Spanish.

Hispanics, or Latinos, have families that originate from a variety of countries south of the United States including Puerto Rico, Mexico and most South American countries. And while immigrants and first-generation Latinos may speak  Spanish in their household those numbers decline through subsequent generations. A Pew Hispanic Center survey notes that only 47 percent — fewer than half — of third generation Latinos speak Spanish proficiently or read a newspaper or book in that language.

What might seem odd to those who see brown, or white, skin and a Hispanic-sounding name who no habla Español has long appeared to me as just one of those interesting facets of living in a multi-ethnic society. I once had a female roommate with a Hispanic surname who likely was helped in landing a TV reporter job because of those assets — not to mention her gorgeous looks — and whose Spanish was limited to “margarita por favor.” I have likewise known Latinos who spoke little or no Spanish married to Anglo wives who spoke “Español del rayo fluido,” (fluently, or so says my online translator!)

Given the audience who would watch a televised debate between these two GOP candidates — Cruz is a Tea Party favorite and Dewhurst, well, is Dewhurst — it would seem no more than a gimmick to stage a debate in Spanish for the pair. Likewise, it would be distinctly disadvantageous for Cruz if all he knows is an amalgam of the English and Spanish languages.

Personally, I don’t care if the two Republican senate candidates hold their debates in Esparanto. I have long been impressed with Democratic nominee Paul Sadler. The attorney from Henderson — yes, he did spend a couple of years during high school in Ventura, Calif., and yes, a high school friend of his was Kevin Costner, but who cares? — was a very skillful and passionate legislator during his time in the Texas House. Whether he has a chance, who knows? My money is on Dewhurst to win the runoff and if that pans out, he will be extremely difficult to defeat unless past or new rumors about his life are exposed as true. I won’t repeat the past rumors because they are just that, rumors, and they have as much of a chance being false as true.

Perhaps Sadler should start boning up on his Spanish if he doesn’t know the language or is rusty in its use. All I can say for now is bueno suerte, Mr. Sadler, you’ll need all the luck you can get.