Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo had been addressing the crowd in both Spanish and English when Mark Tice, the commissioner of neighboring Chambers County, apparently felt it was inappropriate for her to speak Spanish in her address to the public. “It’s real simple. This is the United States. Speak English,” he insisted to the local paper, following his initial comments criticizing Hidalgo’s use of Spanish to address Houstonians in her public safety address.
“From my understanding, there were reporters asking questions in Spanish and Judge Hidalgo responded to those questions in Spanish, with no translation given,” Tice explained on social media. “If that is not the case, then I sincerely apologize.”
NBC News cited figures that justified Hidalgo’s decision to hold a bilingual address: over 40 percent of Harris County’s population is Latino, with many of them using a language other than English at home. It’s clear that she was merely doing her job to serve the public and protect them from potential harm. “As the Head of Emergency Management, Hidalgo is directly responsible for the safety of all 4.5 million residents of Harris County, a third of whom are Spanish speakers,” said one of her staff members in a statement. “[She] will continue to communicate as broadly as possible especially when public safety is at stake.”
The chemical fire began last week at Intercontinental Terminal Co., which caught fire following a leak and burned for days, releasing toxic black smoke and ash into the atmosphere. The complex stored compounds like benzene that some advocacy groups expect to affect the health of local communities, leading to increased incidents of asthma and heart and lung complications. Local officials are still considering the area to be a “hot zone” that is too dangerous for cleanup crews, and will need until at least Monday to begin decontaminating the area, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The criticism comes about a week after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hit back at Fox News host Laura Ingraham for mocking her pronunciation of her name. Ingraham dismissed AOC’s pronunciation as “the Latina thing.” The young congresswoman of course took it upon herself to respond on social media. “If by ‘the Latina thing,’ she means I actually do the work instead of just talk about it, then yeah, I’m doing ‘the Latina thing,’” she wrote. “Unless of course she‘s talking about being multilingual, which we know isn’t a ‘Latina thing.’ It’s a ‘21st century’ thing.”