The state of Florida has a long tradition of Spanish-speaking elected officials that goes back to the founding of St. Augustine, the U.S.’s oldest city, in 1565.
Joseph Marion Hernández entered Congress from the Florida Territory in 1822. He was a Spanish American and the first Hispanic to serve in Congress.
In the modern era, Robert Martínez served as mayor of Tampa from 1979 to 1986, and then governor from 1987 to 1991. Mel Martínez served as U.S. Senator from 2005 to 2009. Both men were moderate Republicans.
Robert Martinez was a leader in the state teachers’ union and was known as a Democrat while mayor of Tampa; he changed parties prior to running statewide.
Never has Florida seen anything like the current campaign by Marco Rubio, who is running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican with the backing of the tea party activists.
The February 5, 2010 issue of La Gaceta, Tampa’s 88-year-old Latin paper, took Rubio to task:
Marco Rubio, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, wants to ignore the U.S. Constitution and have the U.S. Census not count undocumented residents of Florida. The last time the census didn’t take a full count of state residents was in the days of slavery, when the census counted a slave as 3/5 of a person. Why would Rubio, a Hispanic, want the census to treat these undocumented residents, who are mostly Hispanic, worse than a slave?
“We once again strip Rubio of his Hispanicness (and his vowels) for actions unbecoming a Latin. He will now be known as Marc Rub.
“By the way, Mr. Rub, not counting everyone in Florida would cheat this state out of millions in federal funding. Not only are you a little racist, but you are also acting a little dumb.”