Now that most of the subway service has resumed, the trees have been cleared and cynicism has been restored to the city, Hurricane Irene is probably destined to be forgotten by most city denizens by the end of the week.
But who could forget Mayor Bloomberg’s attempts to speak Spanish? During the lead-up to the storm, New Yorkers got used to frequent news conferences from Bloomberg, which featured warnings to evacuate low-lying areas and his attempts warn the Spanish speaking population of the city, which sounded laughable even to the most untrained ear.
Enter @ElBloombito, a Twitter account that had amassed thousands of followers by the storm’s end by parodying Bloomberg’s Spanish with hilarious Spanglish updates about Irene and city services.
Via gchat, JTA spoke to “El Bloombito,” aka Rachel Figueroa-Levin, 25, a married Jewyorican (her dad is Puerto Rican and her mother is an Ashkenazi Jew), mom and artisanal soap maker from the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan, about her Twitter handle and all of the fuss and fun that resulted.
Telegraph: What did you think when you saw that Bloomberg responded to you?
El Bloombito: I was shocked and excited … and thankful that he took it in stride and with good humor. When I created El Bloombito I had no idea in a million years that it would reach the mayor — and that he would respond! I have a million internet points!
What do you make of his excuse that at 69 he is simply too old to learn how to speak another language well? Valid or not?
I don’t know. I’ll let you know when I’m 69.
You mentioned in your interview with the New York Observer that your mom doesn’t speak any Spanish. Has she ever tried to learn?
She says she isn’t very good at learning languages. I remember last year we were at Ikea together and she found a Spanish catalog and started reading it out loud. It was hilarious. She pronounced things like Bloomberg!
In the same Observer article, you also discussed some of the similarities between Yeshivish Hebrew and the Spanglish you parody. Do you think American Jews are just terrible with accents in foreign languages?
That’s hard to answer. American Jews have a mannerism and a way of speaking that is unlike anything I have ever heard. I have a very New York American Jew accent but I can pull off a lot of accents.
Why do you think that is? And do you find it amusing that you’re being addressed as some sort language/diction expert since this whole thing began?
I’m far from a language or diction expert. I can fake a lot of accents- sometimes convincingly but I have no idea why anything in that department “is.” I suppose it depends on what you mean by the word “is.” Oy, I can’t believe I just said that!
So any Spanish advice for Bloomberg — just one small thing for him to work on?
I guess I would tell him to maybe watch Spanish television or listen to Spanish radio. Some kind of immersion for him to get [it] into his head. His Spanish isn’t that terrible. He just needs some help in the diction department.
How about using it to rebrand your soap company, El Bloombito Soaps? Or would you prefer to keep the two brands separate?
No, I’m keeping El Bloombito separate. We’re moving soon and after we get into a bigger space, I’ll be opening an Etsy store for soap. I might have him tweet about it though.
What might an El Bloombito endorsement of your soaps sound like?
Gosh I have no idea … "Neccisito buyo los soapadoros! Que cleano!"
As to the future of El Bloombito — are you planning on perhaps using the platform to comment on other things?
I’ll continue El Bloombito as long as it stays fun. I probably won’t comment on other things- I don’t want it to turn into some political statement feed. I’ll just stick to Spanglish translations of city news.
Mayor Bloomberg’s response to El Bloombito: