Fiesta or Siesta: Does Obama Know the Difference?

Feb 19, 2008 5:21pm

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller Reports: Barack Obama is not a Spanish speaker, but regularly throws out Spanish phrases out of the campaign trail.

"Si Se Puede" and "Mucho Gusto" are common phrases he feels comfortable saying.

But today in San Antonio, Texas, his limited Spanish might have gotten the best of him as a small difference in words had a huge difference in meaning.

A few people were leaving at the end of his town hall event while Obama was still speaking. Obama chalked that up, unknowingly, to them just wanting to beat traffic so he said goodbye in front of the 3,000 person crowd.

But then said, "We’re having a little siesta out here – a little party," as a way to coax them to come back.

The problem?

Siesta, in Spanish, means nap. Fiesta, in Spanish, means party.

It was unclear what Obama actually meant, but it would be hard to surmise Obama wanted for people to catch a nap in the middle of his speech.

Senator Clinton also made Spanish language mistake recently on the campaign trail, mistakenly saying "Si Se Pueda" instead of "Si Se Puede" in Salinas, California in January.

While Obama gave the 2005 State of the Union Spanish Democratic response in Spanish, the campaign admits it was with much coaching.

Obama also has spoken in Spanish in a few of his campaign TV ads, intended to appeal to Hispanic voters in Nevada and California.

Today marks Obama’s first visit to Texas in 2008 – his last event in the state was November 17th of last year. In the days leading up to Texas’s March 4th primary, Obama will be courting the Hispanic vote aggressively – a voting block which he’s been trying to slowly build support after Clinton garnered most of the Hispanic vote in Nevada and California. 

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