Slap at Spanish speakers by mag rooted in bigotry
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
February 18, 2003
By Maria Elena Salinas
A few laughs are not worth offending millions of people and perpetuating
stereotypes. That's why I didn't find anything amusing in recent comments made
the flamboyant cross-dressing character Dame Edna Everage in the February issue
of Vanity Fair magazine.
Asked by a fictitious reader whether Spanish lessons are a good idea, Dame Edna
responded by saying that learning Spanish is "twaddle" and the only possible
reason to learn it would be to talk to "the help" or to "leaf blowers."
Dame Edna went on to say that there isn't anything Spanish has to offer except
Dame Edna, who is really Australian comic Barry Humphries dressed in drag,
managed to offend a rather sizeable ethnic group, when you consider that Spanish
is the second-most-spoken language in the world, after Mandarin.
In the United States, there are some 37 million Hispanics, 30 million of whom
speak Spanish. And it didn't take long for many of them to respond.
"We understand that the column's advice is not intended to be taken seriously.
also understand the question . . . was supposed to elicit laughter," Juan
president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, wrote in a letter
Vanity Fair. "We simply don't see what's so amusing about an appalling display
"Your column in Vanity Fair caused me a great deal of distress," wrote Betty
Cortina, editor of Latina magazine.
She went on to list such world-renowned Spanish-language writers as Gabriel
Garcia Marquez, Carlos Fuentes, Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda and Octavio
"Such disrespect and disparagement of our fellow Americans is not just bad
manners, it is offensive to us all," stated Lisa Navarrete, of the National
Dame Edna's stinging remarks had Hispanic groups threatening to boycott Vanity
Fair and demanding an apology from the magazine and from Dame Edna herself
(or is it himself?).
As for me, I support the efforts to get an apology. As someone who uses Spanish
on a daily basis, I know that it is not "twaddle" and is indeed spoken by more
maids and gardeners, not as Dame Edna would have us believe.
As a matter of fact, it would be beneficial for everyone to learn how to speak
of the richest and most beautiful languages on Earth, and be able to communicate
with the more than 400 million native Spanish speakers in the world.
Defenders of Dame Edna point out that she/he is a fictional character who
everybody. An equal-opportunity distributor of insults is how Vanity Fair
Dame Edna might be make-believe, but there was nothing fictional about her
insulting remarks. They show a lack of sensitivity not only on her/his part, but
the part of the editors of Vanity Fair, who allowed them to be published.
They just don't get it. Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the
Instead of insulting Hispanics, Vanity Fair should consider publishing its
in Spanish. And that is no joke.
* Maria Elena Salinas is an anchor for"Noticiero Univision" and a columnist
with King Features, 888 7th Ave., New York, NY 10019; e-mail:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Salinas also maintains a bilingual Web site: