Aaron Lewis, the former lead singer of the rock band Staind, told a Texas crowd that he didn’t know how to speak Spanish because he was “American,” after somebody spurred him to sing something in Spanish. Then, frustrated by a raucous crowd who wouldn’t quiet down, the now solo singer walked off-stage.
The scene, recorded with cellphone cameras by eyewitnesses, is awkward and very weird. It took place Saturday night, during a performance at the Pharr Events Center in Texas.
Pharr, located in the Rio Grande Valley, is a border city of about 80,000 residents near the Pharr-Reynosa International port of entry bridge, which only made his remarks more disrespectful. Not only is Pharr a border city, but the U.S. census also shows its population is 94 percent Hispanic or Latino.
Before the comment, cellphone videos show the 46-year old sitting on a stool, holding on to his guitar, and puffing at a cigarette while he waited for the people gathered to be silent. Among the buzz, some concertgoers expressed their irritation at the situation, whistling and shouting to others to shut up. At one point, the now country singer sighed and said, “I’m only gonna wait for so long and then I’m just gonna say good night.”
“En español” somebody shouted (“in Spanish!”) which made Lewis reach back for the mic to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t know how to speak Spanish. I’m American.” The remarks received a mixed response from the audience, with boos and cheers coming into the audio recording of the concert.
People took to social media to complain that his words implied that being a Spanish speaker in the United States was un-American.
#AaronLewis I’m salvadorian and a USMC veteran I don’t remember anybody telling me I couldn’t serve cause I speak spanish, and didn’t know only Americans speak English, you sound like a bitch to me
— hugo doradea (@doradea_hugo) February 4, 2019
Aaron Lewis comes down to south texas “the valley” and because of a few bad fans but has the nerve to say to “I don’t speak spanish I’m AMERICAN” wow were not MEXICO just so you know WE ARE AMERICAN TOO ASSHOLE! Lost a fan smh @Aaronlewismusic
— JerriBomb (@JerriBomb) February 3, 2019
Shout out to Aaron Lewis, the super has-been combating his irrelevance with ignorance. FYI I’m an American as well as someone who speaks Spanish. implying that speaking Spanish is only done by those who aren’t American makes you a scumbag. Thank you and Goodnight. pic.twitter.com/DWfYRGiPpA
— Mister_November👺 (@Master_November) February 5, 2019
Others, on the other hand, defended the former rock star and said he had nothing to apologize for.
#AaronLewis You were right in what you did. You don’t speak Spanish, and you’re American. I’m still a fan. You walked off the stage with class. <fist bump>
— Christ-follower (@aTX_WhiSp3R) February 4, 2019
So he’s considered a racist for not being able to speak Spanish and states he American? Well then tell that to every person who says they don’t speak English because their Mexican.
Aaron Lewis Says He Doesn’t Speak Spanish ‘Cause He’s American https://t.co/sKqykBLBIM
— John Sanders (@JohnSandersSr) February 3, 2019
So far, Lewis has yet to respond.
Emily Corona is a digital intern at Futuro Media Group. She is a journalist and translator from Mexico City, pursuing a master’s in journalism and Latin American and Caribbean studies at NYU. She tweets from @daminijo.