México City, May 5, 2001
Bush courts Hispanics with White House fiesta
WASHINGTON -- Declaring "mi Casa Blanca es su Casa Blanca," President George W. Bush on Friday courted Hispanics by hosting the first celebration of Cinco de Mayo at the White House.
Bush, who sprinkled his brief speech with Spanish words and phrases, also broke with tradition and taped his first weekly radio address in Spanish.
The South Lawn resonated with mariachi music and cries of "Viva Mexico!" as Bush sat with about 300 guests in front of the South Portico and watched traditional dancing and singing.
After being introduced by his Mexican-American nephew George P. Bush as "Tio Jorge," Bush got onstage and gave his customary line welcoming his visitors to the White House -- but in Spanish.
Bush, who met with President Vicente Fox -- like Bush a former state governor -- on Thursday, highlighted the importance of the relationship between Mexico and the United States.
"We have worked together as governors. We will work together as presidents," Bush said.
He noted the importance of Cinco de Mayo for people on both sides of the border. "It's such an important holiday we decided to start early," Bush said.
Cinco de Mayo falls on Saturday, but the Bushes are spending the weekend at Camp David. Cinco de Mayo, a common celebration in U.S. states bordering Mexico, commemorates the Mexican Army's victory over the French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 [something that has absolutely no significance in the United States].
In another apparent nod to the growing political influence of Hispanics, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush's weekly radio address, taped on Friday for broadcast on Saturday, was done in both English and Spanish.
"In an unprecedented first for a national radio address, the president taped it in Spanish as well as in English," Fleischer said. "And from this point forward, all radio addresses will be translated into Spanish and will be made available to Spanish radio stations throughout the country."
In reference to Bush's tendency to mangle the English language, Fleischer said the president had shown some concern about doing the same in a second language.
"The president himself said ... he hopes he doesn't butcher the Spanish as badly as he has the English," Fleischer said.
Bush, whose home state of Texas borders Mexico, speaks conversational Spanish and admits to a less-than-perfect delivery.
The Democratic Party, which gives a response to the president's radio address every week, will also broadcast in Spanish starting on Saturday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said in a statement.