- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

Several government officials, residents and tourists in the nation’s capital say a new Spanish-language version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is disrespectful and called for the government to make English the official language of the United States.

The Spanish version, titled “Nuestro Himno,” alters the English version as a way to honor immigrants, said British music producer Adam Kidron, who composed the version.

Arlington County Board member J. Walter Tejada, a leading immigration advocate, said the changes are out of line.

“The national anthem is a very important symbol [and] I think it needs to be sung in English,” Mr. Tejada said. “If [the composer] intended to provide the translation into Spanish [as] a way to teach the national anthem to people who are still learning English [that would be OK].

“What I don’t particularly support is changing the meaning of some of the words,” he added. “No one in their right mind would like their own national anthem to have the words changed, no matter what country they’re from.”

Tourists at Fort McHenry in Baltimore on Wednesday called the Spanish version offensive. They were visiting the site where a flag that withstood attack by the British during the War of 1812 inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the poem that later became the anthem.

“There’s one national language here: That’s English. And the national anthem should be sung in English,” said Stan Hayden, 62, of Salt Lake City.

“This is America,” said Barbara Robel, 53, of Towson, Md., who accompanied a group of fourth-graders to the historical spot. “It’s all freedom of speech, but I don’t see a problem with them learning it our way. If we were in Spain or Mexico, we’d have to learn it their way, right?”

Last week, President Bush criticized the Spanish version, saying the anthem loses some of its value when sung in a language other than English.

Not everyone opposes the translation.

Vincent Vaise, a spokesman for Fort McHenry, said anything that encourages the singing of the anthem and an appreciation of the ideals it represents is “a good thing.”

“Anything that really fosters respect for the immigrants who built this country is [also] a good thing,” said Mr. Vaise, who is a National Park Service ranger. “But to change the words is very sensitive. Virtually every American feels a sense of ownership through the national anthem. … Anything that would try to alter that is going to be met with a degree of controversy.”

The Spanish version will be included on an album, “Somos Americanos,” whose proceeds will go to the National Capital Immigrant Coalition, an immigrant advocacy group based in the District.

Jaime Contreras, the group’s president, said the translation is not literal because it aims to teach immigrants the spirit behind the song rather than the exact words. About 12 percent of the U.S. population speaks Spanish, the Census Bureau reports.

“None of this was done in any way, shape or form to offend anybody,” Mr. Contreras said. “This is a tribute to America in Spanish.”

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