Friday, April 28, 2006

The Estrella Spangled Banner

Conservatives are outraged that a group of Latin American artists is recording a Spanish version of the U.S. National Anthem. Tightie Righties have claimed that changing the language of Francis Scott Key's War of 1812 poem (which did not become the offical anthem for more than 100 years) is anti-American, a terrible desecration of our values and our national heritage, an imposition of foreign culture on our English speaking nation, and disloyal. Some are calling it the "Illegal Immigrant Anthem."

What a huge pile of utter nonesense.

Facts are a wonderful thing. In the year what would become the National Anthem was written, California, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Wyoming belonged to Mexico. Flordia belonged to Spain. These areas gradually came under American control through 1853, when the rest of Arizona and New Mexico, including what is now Tuscon, was puchased from Mexico. Puerto Rico would come even later. The major Western language of these massive areas was Spanish, and Spanish has been continuously spoken in these areas in large percentages since the continent's colonization hundreds of years before. More than 75 million Americans now live in these areas with a deep Spanish heritage.

There are about 42 million Hispanics in America, about the same number of people who live in Spain. More than 31 million Americans speak Spanish at home. In fact, the U.S. is has the fifth largest number of Spanish speakers in the world, and will probably be number 2 in a few decades. To claim that America does not have a Spanish heritage is absurd.

The musicians putting out the track are not suggesting that the National Anthem be offically changed to Spanish, or that a Spanish version should share co-officalhood. All that is being done is to record what will be about the 350th version of the former English drinking ditty, not including Rosanne Barr's version.

American values -- life, liberty, pursuit of celebrity baby news -- are what is supposed to define us. These values are supposed to be universal, self-evident. So in 2006 we can't simply translate an ok poem about an attack on Baltimore into a language that has deep American cultural roots, while the Bible had been translated into more than 500 languages by 500 A.D.?

Its a translation, folks. That's all. Get over it. Spanish was here long before you were, and in much of our country, long before English.

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