|50 YEARS OF COMMONWEALTH
Puerto Rico Senate President, Antonio Juan Fas Alzamora recently told scholars at Madrid's Universidad Complutense - no doubt in flawless Castilian Spanish - that English should be dropped as a co-official language of Puerto Rico. His argument was that Spanish is the prevailing language on the island. He conceded, however, that since Puerto Rico is politically linked to the United States, its children should learn English in school. Had he chosen to do so, Fas Alzamora could have delivered his talk in English with equal comprehension, since it has become the universal language of scholarship.
Back on the island, Fas Alzamora continues to urge his Senate colleagues to translate his wishes into law, and probably has enough Popular Party (PDP) votes to carry the initiative, but that body is hearing the linguistically neutral expletive, "NO," echoing in feminine tones from the Forteleza. Governor Calderon, who is fluently bi-lingual, has recently been intoning her English with a Texas drawl, just as her sometime interlocutor, U.S. President George W. Bush, is brushing up his Spanish syntax, with visions of U.S. Hispanics voting Republican next November.
So, the Spanish/English gambit continues to characterize island politics. Former PDP Governor Hernandez Colon tried to purge official bilingualism by Constitutional means but the electorate said "no" in a referendum in 1991. Governor Pedro Rossello, a statehood advocate, constructed the duel linguistic pedestals that the current administration inherited. Sen. Fas Alzamora associates his resistance to official English as a response to U.S. influence over the Puerto Rico's culture. If, however, the legislative body he heads should ever wish to communicate with any office of the U.S. Federal Government, he will need to do so in English.
Bill Johnson, Legislative Director for Representative James V. Hansen, Chairman of the House Resources Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives told the Herald that, to his knowledge, Congressman Hansen had never received a letter from Mr. Fas Alzamora, even though the Resources Committee holds "Title Four" jurisdiction over all U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico. "It is appropriate for territories to communicate with the Federal Government in English," said Johnson. Further, he called it "a moot point, since Congressman Hansen has never received any official communication from any Puerto Rican Government entity since he assumed the Chairmanship of the Committee, including correspondence from the office of Governor Sila Calderon or any member of her administration."
"In fact," said Johnson, "Congressman Hansen sent Gov. Calderon a cordial letter just after her inauguration, pointing out that, since they both had new jobs and important responsibilities for the American citizens of Puerto Rico, it would be desirable for them to meet to establish a dialogue. She did not answer the letter. In fact, "said Johnson, "the Congressman has never received any communication from Governor Calderon since she took office. He has never met her nor spoken with her at any time in the past."
Perhaps they need a translator at the "Fort" read Forteleza!
Let us know if you wish to consider English as a "foreign language" in Puerto Rico or if you think that official bilingualism is appropriate for the 3.8 million American citizens of the island.
By the way, what do you think?
Should English and Spanish Remain As Co-Official Languages in Puerto Rico?