Donald Trump celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month by mocking Puerto Rico in Spanish

Trump just mocked Spanish accents at a Hispanic Heritage Month event

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 6, 2017 2:29PM (EDT)

Writing this story presented me with an unexpected challenge. While I could just ignore the details about that challenge and instead dispassionately describe the events that occurred, I think explaining the nature of the obstacle that arose sheds light on the deeper problem that this story reveals.

You see, during a speech about the devastation in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria, President Donald Trump decided to mock the name "Puerto Rico" by saying it in a stereotypical Spanish accent. Lest you think this was an accident, he mocked the American commonwealth's name not once, not twice, but three times in a row — and then, for good measure, pronounced it without the mockery, just in case you were still unsure that it was his intention to ridicule a people who are still reeling from a devastating natural disaster.

At this point, my job as a journalist is to transcribe what Trump said for you the reader. But that raises the question: How do I accurately transcribe the difference between when he said Puerto Rico's name while ridiculing it and when he did not?

Here is my transcription:

"We are also praying for the people of Puh-werto Rico. We love Puh-werto Rico. Puh-werto Rico! And we also love Puerto Rico."

But watch for yourself:

Sure, the crowd laughed at his joke — he's the leader of the most powerful country in the world and is well known to have a thin skin, so who wouldn't? — but that doesn't make it any less offensive, particularly coming from a man whose idea of expressing empathy to Latinx people whose lives have been destroyed is to toss paper towels at them. And whose 2016 presidential campaign, lest it be forgotten, was kicked off with racist remarks about undocumented Mexican immigrants.

This should not be normal, people. I shouldn't have to write an article about the President of the United States — Democrat, Republican or anything else — and have to figure out ways of transcribing a crude racist joke for my readers. I deserve better than that. You deserve better than that. And most important of all, the people of Puerto Rico deserve better than that. But the nightmare continues.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Donald Trump Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico