Since the Democratic debate ended on Wednesday evening, the jokes have not stopped coming about the candidates who spoke Spanish onstage.
After former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Cory Booker spoke several somewhat-broken Spanish sentences at the debate, Trevor Noah teased that it’s like “when Dad says, ‘Hola, Como Estas?’ to the waiter at the Mexican restaurant.” Cable news shows used it as a curiosity. Hosts of The View rolled their eyes. “To me, it was a little bit pandering, off the top,” Joy Behar spoke on Thursday morning on the show. Meghan McCain responded in agreement.
The reaction was completely different on the Spanish-language news shows, however. Panelists called it a “historic” moment, saying that the Spanish language was one of the “champions” of the night.
In fact, it was the first topic discussed during Telemundo’s post-debate analysis. “We have never heard our language this much in a presidential debate,” said Telemundo anchor Felicidad Aveleyra, approvingly.
Her co-anchor, Julio Vaqueiro, agreed. “[Spanish] was the main protagonist.”
Not all panelists were on the same page, but the anchors represented the overall mood on Univision and on CNN en Español, too. And, in a sense, their opinion is the one that matters most to Democrats trying to win the Latinx vote. More than 5 million US viewers tune in each week for the primetime evening news shows on Telemundo and Univision — the two leading Spanish-language networks in the US.
Most commentators agreed that former HUD Secretary Julián Castro — who announced his run for the presidency in Spanish onstage — was the star of the night, and his stance on immigration was well-received. Talking about his proposal to cancel a section of US law that makes it a federal crime for settlers to cross the border illegally, he said it’s time to “go back to the way we used to treat this when somebody comes across the border, not to criminalize torture, to treat that as a civil violation.”
But it was a winning moment for Spanish-language media overall that three candidates spoke Spanish several times. It was also a hit with Miami viewers, noted Univision correspondent Lourdes Del Río, who attended a debate-watch party.