Earlier this year in an interview with Univision, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney talked about how he felt it would be "disingenuous" of him to claim Mexican heritage, although his father and grandfather were born in Mexico as descendants of Mormons who migrated from the United States. But as polls show how badly Romney needs Latino voter support, no more.
In a new Spanish-language TV ad addressing immigration, his son Craig Romney, a fluent Spanish speaker, talks about how his father values "that we are a nation of immigrants" and says: "My grandfather George was born in Mexico."
It's not the proverbial hair net that comic George Lopez invoked during his recent standup tirade, in which he accused Romney of not wanting to admit to being Latino. But it's significant.
From a transcript of the Univision interview in January, here’s how Mitt Romney explained his position on his ethnic identity:
“…my dad was born in Mexico, and I am proud of my heritage. But he was born of U.S. citizens who were living in Mexico at the time, and was not Hispanic. He never spoke Spanish, nor did his parents. So I can’t claim that honor.”
The story of Romney's Mexican roots is complicated: Romney’s late father, former Michigan governor George Romney, was born in the state of Chihuahua, where his own grandfather had settled in the 1880s with other Mormons who left the U.S. to escape anti-polygamy laws. He left Mexico in 1912 with his parents as part of the northbound exodus during the Mexican Revolution.
But unlike others fleeing Mexico, the elder Romney was already a U.S. citizen when he and his family arrived here, and Mexican citizenship laws played a part. The laws governing citizenship in Mexico changed a few times during the 19th century as Mexico tried to fend off foreign occupiers, including the U.S., to which Mexico lost much of its territory in the Mexican-American War. At the time, foreign settlers were seen as a threat.
For much of the 19th century and into the early 20th, Mexico abided by versions of jus sanguinis citizenship, Latin for “right of blood,” with birthright citizenship only granted to children born to citizens of Mexico. The elder Romney's foreign bloodline would have precluded him from being a Mexican citizen. So in the end, Mitt Romney was born to a Mexican-born U.S. citizen.
At the same time, the family spent generations in Mexico, and many other Mexican-born Romneys continue to make their lives in Chihuahua today.
Readers, what do you think of Romney's move? It it, as he once said, disingenuous for someone with his particular background to claim Mexican heritage? Or is it about time he did?