When Will Presidential Candidates Like Kamala Harris Begin to Really Care About Reaching Spanish-Language Voters?

Jan 22, 2019
9:01 AM

So the 2020 election cycle has begun and once again, we are witnessing how presidential candidates continue to fail when it comes to their Spanish-language messaging. You would think by now that in 2019 we would have gotten all past this, but apparently not.

The latest example?

Kamala Harris’ campaign launch on Monday. Under much fanfare, the California Democrat got a lot of press and attention. And to be honest, our group wasn’t really paying attention for several reasons, including the fact that the Democratic field will be rather large when all is said and done, so Harris’ announcement was expected.

Then, @frederickvIII tweeted this to us:

It caught our attention, because once again, a presidential campaign decided to just toss away an opportunity to actually treat Spanish-language messaging with actual respect. But that would have been wishful thinking, considering that campaigns from all over the country don’t really get it and likely never will.

As Velez notes,

And Velez is right. Go to other presidential campaign sites and there’s just something about the Spanish versions that reek of literal translations and lack of cultural nuance. Like Elizabeth Warren’s page. Or Kirsten Gillibrand’s page. Or Tulsi Gabbard’s page. Or even Julián Castro’s page.

The reason for all this clunkiness is simple: when it comes to presidential campaigns and their messaging, Spanish is truly a toss-away task. English is 100% more important and Spanish is never seen as an equal. It’s cheaper to just pass out English text to a translator than actually work with Spanish-language communicators who can expertly navigate through the linguistic and cultural challenges.

Some might think that this is all being overblown (just see Velez’s thread to see how many people are slamming him for speaking the truth), but we will argue otherwise. Being authentic and making a conscious and intentional choice matters. This is 2019. The U.S. Latino community continues to grow. Sure, English use among Latinos keeps rising, but Spanish hasn’t gone away. Just do better. It’s not that hard.

With that said, maybe the Harris campaign got the message (at least for that one example), because just hours after Velez’s tweet, it made an edit to the text:

Still, the Spanish-language version of her campaign’s site is pretty clunky.

Which is why we tweeted this to the Harris campaign:

And as for all of you who think this is all silly, we honestly don’t care. We don’t work for Democrats, we don’t work for political campaigns, and we will continue to inform political campaigns to keep the raising the bar. And we are totally fine with that.

As for Velez and his being critiqued for actually raising a very important issue? Here is more you need to know: