Why Mayor Bloomberg's Spanish Rocks (Sort of)

During storms, Bloomberg speaks a lot of Spanish.

Oct 31, 2012— -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Spanish has become an easy target for internet commenters. During superstorm Sandy, like Hurricane Irene, the Twitter account 'El Bloombito' gained notoriety — and thousands of followers — for poking fun at the mayor's Spanish-language announcements.

"Broadway is closedo. Stay insidero. No singo in the raino," one reads. "No evacuations ahora. Stayo Puto!" another says.

While Bloomberg's accent is certainly strong, some in the Latino community say he's actually quite fluent and give him credit for trying to reach Latinos in times of emergency.

"The mayor's Spanish is a lot better than a lot of people really think it is, and the funny thing is that the people who criticize it the most are exactly the ones who don't speak a second language," Juan Manuel Benítez, a political reporter for NY1 Noticias, told The New York Times.

The mayor's Spanish accent — which sounds exactly like his English accent — is definitely not great. But his attempts to include a significant part of the population that was affected by the storm are admirable.

It also makes a lot of sense. The New York, Northern New Jersey, Long Island metropolitan area has more Latinos than any other metropolitan area in the country, according to Census estimates. Nearly 2 million Spanish-speakers make the region their home, and nearly one third of New York City's population is Hispanic.

Latinos may be more vulnerable during crises like Sandy. During storms like Hurricane Katrina, those worst affected were the poor and the ill-informed. In a 2006 paper from University of Colorado, Kathleen Tierney argued that poorer communities have less information, fewer resources to evacuate, and worse shelter for withstanding strong storms.

Bloomberg seems committed to ensuring all New Yorkers understand the severity of oncoming storms — even if it makes a few of us giggle along the way.

Last year, when asked about his accented Spanish and its parody Twitter in a news conference, Bloomberg said, smiling: "Tengo 69 años. Es difícil para aprender un nuevo idioma."

The translation: "I'm 69 years old. It's difficult to learn a new language."


CORRECTION: A prior version of this article gave an incorrect estimate of number of Spanish speakers living in New York City. The article has been updated to reflect a 2008 estimate by the Census bureau.