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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

One more item about the immigration debate. Today Spanish language radio stations started playing a new version of an old song, Francis Scott Key's Star Spangled Banner, loosely translated into Spanish.

(Soundbite of Nuestro Himno)

BLOCK: It's called Nuestro Himno, or Our Anthem, and it's sung by over 20 Latin recording artists, taking a line apiece in their own distinctive styles. The producers of the song are urging a simultaneous broadcast across the country this evening.

(Soundbite of Nuestro Himno)

BLOCK: The political significance of the song made it all the way to the White House. The President was asked at his news conference today what he thought about the Spanish-language anthem. He responded firmly.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English. And I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English. And they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English.

BLOCK: Nico Jones is the host of a popular Spanish-language radio show in Los Angeles. It's called The Morning Invasion, and he played the song on his show today.

Mr. NICO JONES (Radio Host, The Morning Invasion): This morning when the song came to me we were a little unsure whether we should play it or not, because we were very aware of the controversy that it was going to create. But I think the last thought that I had before we went on the air with it was, is this freedom expression? And bottom line, absolutely, yes. You know, the very fact that an artist can express themselves artistically in this great country that we live in is a beautiful thing. So that being said, I left it up to my listeners to decide for themselves. That's how we set it up and how we went on the air with it this morning.

BLOCK: How many times have you played it?

Mr. JONES: Twice.

BLOCK: And what kind of response did you get from your listeners?

Mr. JONES: You know, our listeners were divided. I think, if you're looking for percentages, now this is unscientific, this is off the top of my head, but I'd say probably 60 percent of our listeners were offended and most of our listeners are Latino, by the way. And I'd say probably 40 percent thought, hey, you know what? It's freedom of expression, and we're cool. I mean if that's what they want to do as artists and express themselves as a sign of unity, then go right ahead. Now, you know, the people that were okay with it, weren't necessarily supporting it, if that makes sense.

BLOCK: They just thought it was an okay thing for people to do, even if they didn't particularly like the song.

Mr. JONES: Right. But 60 percent of the audience or so, I think, was offended by it. And most of that is Latinos.

BLOCK: Now what were they offended by? Did they tell you?

Mr. JONES: The disrespect to The National Anthem. I think that a lot of people hold the National Anthem dear to their heart, especially if you have a loved one that has served in the military or you, yourself, has spent some time in the military protecting this great country that we live in.

I think some of those people were probably a little upset and felt that it was kind of a slap in the face, you know. Especially at a wartime that we're in right now. The patriotism or un-patriotism of disrespecting the National Anthem, I think, was something that our listeners were afraid of.

BLOCK: Is there some sense among your listeners that maybe this could hurt their cause in a sense, if they're looking for immigration reform that protects their rights, that this could alienate people? Turn them against them.

Mr. JONES: Absolutely. That is a concern. You know, it seems unpatriotic, and this is such an easy story for the right to manipulate and say, hey, this is unpatriotic and, you know, how can you do this? You know, if you want to be in America, how can you re-do the National Anthem and in such, in such a vulnerable state right now as an undocumented immigrant.

Or as I like to refer to as undocumented contributors to the American economy that are increasing the profit margins of American companies.

BLOCK: Mr. Jones, as you listen to the song, what do you think the message is?

Mr. JONES: I think the message is that we live, in my opinion, that we live in a country where we can express ourselves. Freedom of expression. Unity and freedom of expression.

BLOCK: Because they felt free to reinterpret the anthem, in other words. The artists themselves.

Mr. JONES: Well, they felt like they wanted to express themselves just like Jimi Hendrix expressed himself when he re-did The National Anthem, you know. I know people that served in the United States Marine Corps that actually play and are very proud of the version that Jimi Hendrix has done of the National Anthem. And I also know people who think that that version of the National Anthem was offensive.

BLOCK: Well, Nico Jones, thanks very much for talking with us.

Mr. JONES: No, no. Thank you.

BLOCK: Nico Jones is host of the Morning Invasion, a Spanish language radio show in Los Angeles.

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