McCain and the Virgen de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

July 8, 2008

One of John McCain’s final activities on his recent trip to Latin America could earn him thousands of Latino votes, or at least a new affinity from Hispanics: He visited the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

The Basilica de Guadalupe is Mexico’s most important religious sanctuary, and it ranks among the most important worship places in all of Latin America. The Basilica houses the original apron that was given to Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant, when the Virgin appeared before him in the 16th Century.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is the patroness saint of Mexico and the Americas; she is also referred to as the “Virgen Morena” (browned-skinned Virgin) and as the “Mother of all Mexicans.” Her image is worshiped with such devotion that almost every Catholic home in Mexico, or with Mexican roots in the U.S., has a picture, an altar or icon of the Virgen.

As Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes (as cited on Wikipedia) observed, “One may no longer consider himself a Christian, but you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe.” Echoing that sentiment, Nobel laureate Octavio Paz (as cited on Wikipedia) said, “The Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the National Lottery.”

When in trouble, Mexican Catholics pray for la Virgen to intercede on their behalf, and when a miracle or “favor” is granted, the recipient offers a sacrifice or a gift to thank her. A common gesture to thank the Virgen is to make a pilgrimage to the Basilica, particularly around December 12, the day her feast is celebrated.

For Latino immigrants, the Virgen de Guadalupe represents an icon that gives them hope and helps them maintain their faith while facing problems. In fact, it is common to see the image of the Virgen carried by faithful participants during immigration reform rallies and events.

Historical Significance

The image of the Virgen de Guadalupe has been present during critical events in Mexican history. During Mexico’s Independence War from Spain in 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, known as the “Father of the Nation,” initiated and fought with a flag of la Virgen in his hand. During Mexico’s civil war a century later, Emiliano Zapata and his peasant army fought the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz using a banner of the Virgen as their flag.

In the modern era, then-candidate Vicente Fox began his presidential bid carrying a flag of the Virgen de Guadalupe that was given to him by his children; his victory ended the PRI’s more than 70-year political reign in Mexico.

McCain

For candidate John McCain, visiting the Basilica and getting a picture taken next to the Virgen could be a powerful tool to attract the votes of Latinos, especially those older immigrants and those with low-literacy levels as they would perceive him as a candidate who relates to them and pays respect to one of the most sacred elements in their lives. As far as political icons go, this one could work miracles.

                                       Picture Source: EFE

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Yes we can!…improve Obama’s Spanish-language Web site

April 21, 2008

The golden rule when adapting (or trancreating, as some prefer) a marketing message, document or materials into another language is to ensure cultural relevance, which includes linguistic accuracy. In other words, the message or content must mean something to your target audience, and it must be grammatically and orthographically correct.

When developing materials for the Hispanic market, a misspelled word, a missing orthographic accent or a too literal translation of a word can negatively impact communication with the target audience. Even worse, such mistakes can be considered disrespectful to some consumers (like me).

I recently visited Sen. Barack Obama’s official Spanish-language Web site, and I was disappointed to find many orthographic and grammar mistakes in the site. The first problem is evident: in the homepage menu the word Conózcanos appears with an orthographic accent in the last “o” when it should be in the second “o” (Conózcanos vs Conozcanós).

Also, the latest blog entry appears as “Obama Pide que se Establezca Como Dia de Fiesta Nacional el Cumpleanos de Cesar Chavez” (Obama asks that Cesar Chavez’s birthday be considered as a National Holiday) , though the words Día, César and Chávez all should have orthographic accents and the word Cumpleaños should use a “ñ” instead of an “n .” Just for reference, the word ano with an “n” is the Spanish-language word for anus, while the word año with an “ñ” means year, so using Cumpleanos could be misinterpreted.

Obama en Español

The third blog entry includes the following title “Latino Lideres de Ohio Demuestran su Apoyo a Barack Obama . “ The first two words “Latino Líderes” were translated directly from “Latino Leaders” while the correct order of the words should be the inverse “Líderes Latinos”, plus the word líderes should have an accent in the letter “i .” The rest of the text of the entry seems to have been translated with an on-line translation software and not proof read by a Spanish-language speaker. Yet, the text was signed by Conchita Cruz (a Latina name).

The Obama Hispanic team should carefully review the content of the page and avoid these evident mistakes, which are affecting the candidate’s image. A comment in the page’s blog says:

…el castellano escrito en su versión para hispanos debe ser mucho mejor. Hay demasiados errores. Posted by Jose from Chicago, IL
…the Castilian (Spanish) written in the Hispanic version of the page should be improved. There are too many mistakes. Posted by Jose from Chicago, IL

Finally, as a suggestion, the Spanish-language version of the page should also contain quotations from Obama as the English-language one does. Ideally, the page should contain the phrase “¡Sí se puede!” given the phrase’s strong appeal among U.S. Hispanics. (If you want to read more about the origin and usage of the phrase click here.)