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Bloomberg Courts Votes With A Bit Of Spanish


June 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

If he pronounces "bodega," boo-DEH-gah instead of bo-DAY-gah, if those R's just refuse to roll, if he greets rapid-fire Spanish with a sheepish grin, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has an explanation.

At Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg offered it to William Correa, 49, a retired government accountant who inquired about the mayor's Spanish after he issued a proclamation to dignitaries from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in honor of the Pan American Games to be played there in August.

"You know, it is so hard," Mr. Bloomberg told Mr. Correa, who is a New York-born Puerto Rican. "No. 2, as you get older, learning a language gets harder. Some days I think I keep going backwards. I must be making some progress. It is embarrassing when you start."

Mr. Bloomberg said he practices every day and reads some city news in two Spanish-language dailies, El Diario/La Prensa and Hoy.

"It is fascinating how they both cover the same story from different perspectives," Mr. Bloomberg said, adding with a grin, "or maybe that's my Spanish. I don't know."

Mr. Bloomberg joins a long line of New York politicians, like Gov. George E. Pataki and the City Council speaker, Gifford Miller, who have grappled with Spanish, with varying degrees of success, as a way to connect with Latino voters.

Mr. Bloomberg took a Spanish tutor with him to events during his mayoral campaign, but The Daily News reported on Monday that the tutor no longer works with him. Edward Skyler, the mayor's spokesman, said yesterday that Mr. Bloomberg still takes lessons, but he refused to say with whom or how often.

Recent opinion polls have shown large numbers of Hispanic voters disapprove of Mr. Bloomberg.

The mayor said yesterday that he did not follow the polls. But he has recently held a flurry of events in or of interest to predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

Surrounded by neighborhood children and clad in shorts and T-shirt during his park visit yesterday, he jumped into a city pool to signal the opening of public pools today.

When the dignitaries had greeted him one by one in Spanish, he offered his pleasantries in English. But he ultimately did speak a few words of Spanish to the guests, telling them "Voy a Santo Domingo" ("I am going to Santo Domingo") for the Pan American Games.

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