I don’t know you, but I did tune in Univision at 7:00 pm sharp Sunday night for the first presidential debate on Spanish-language television, pitched by the network as the first ever “custom-made” debate for U.S. Hispanics… Those were some challenging 90 minutes!
While the debate was pitched as the first-ever “Spanish-language forum,” the only ones allowed to speak Spanish were the moderators: Univision’s Maria Elena Salinas and Jorge Ramos. The candidates –who wore earpieces to hear an interpreter translate the moderators’ questions– had all agreed to answer only in English (a bummer, really, only for Bill Richardson, who grew up in Mexico City. “Fine by me!” seemed to think the others.)
The rest of us, watching from our living room, were submitted to a real arroz con mango; with the candidates hearing the questions in Spanish, responding in English; the interpreters saying things like “escuela elemental” presumably for “escuela primaria” or “reversar el curso” for “revertir el curso;” the moderators shooshing the candidates in Spanish, and Richardson insisting on speaking Spanish and annoying the hell out of the moderators.
To make matters worse, some reporters covering the debate at the University of Miami complained that the translation devices didn’t quite fit in their ears, and that 90 seconds before the forum began tonight, the Media Room had no sound “not in Spanish, English or French. Nada,” said the Washington Times.
All in all, it made for very good entertainment, though I’m not sure the candidates will be able to beat another promising ratings-buster Sunday night: a special appearance of RBD in Buscando a Timbiriche. Place your bets!