In 2011, when Hurricane Irene was bearing down on New York City, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg took to the airwaves to warn New Yorkers, in English and in Spanish, to take the necessary precautions and stay safe.
Residents in some parts of the city, just as they were two years later in the devastating Sandy, were being told to leave their homes, just in case.
When Bloomberg, who was very public about his working with a tutor to better serve his multi-cultural city, switched to his really — really — bad Spanish, Rachel Figueroa thought the timing was just, well, really bad. Not to mention, painfully hilarious.
So, at home in her upper Manhattan apartment, the Jewish and Puerto Rican new mom took to social media and, for kicks, started @ElBloombito on Twitter, a joke account for her and her friends. On it, she mocked Bloomberg with spanglish versions of his declarations.
“Fill los bathtub con agua por preparando el no agua,” she tweeted. And when it was all over: “Los trainos y el bussos son muy operation. Go to worko. No excuso.”
But what she thought would just be some fun with her friends, suddenly took off. Soon, she had tens of thousands of followers.
When Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, @ElBloombito pretty much went dormant. Until this week.
Bloomberg was suddenly seriously considering a run for president of the United States, and the mom of a 5-year-old girl — whom she homeschools — decided a resurrection was order
So El Bloombito is back. With a vengeance. And Figueroa, a writer, web designer, pilot, and soap maker who also tweets under the name @Jewyorican couldn’t be happier.
Neither could we.
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR RACHEL FIGUEROA
Just how thrilled are you that Bloomberg might run? Doing El Bloombito is a lot of fun, and it tends to be more active when the real Bloomberg does something big, but I’m not sure I would want him as president. I enjoy my large beverages.
As presidente, yo defeato el ISIS by sendingo overo los grande sodas y food con transfats. Los terroristos will muerto of los diabeeetos.— Miguel Bloombito (@ElBloombito) January 26, 2016
If he’s elected, should he speak Spanish from the Oval Office? The reason I created El Bloombito had nothing to do with the former mayor simply speaking Spanish. Speaking Spanish at campaign events, town halls, those sorts of things is great. What the mayor did was speak bad Spanish at a time when there was a potential emergency and people needed to evacuate. He put his ego before the need to communicate clearly.
I recently returned from spending a month in Puerto Rico with my daughter. Almost the entire time there I spoke Spanish. The one time I didn’t was when she came down with a stomach virus. I spoke to a doctor in English and used a translator with nurses when needed because English is my first and usually the only language I speak day to day. I wanted to make sure that my daughter’s condition was communicated clearly. Did I look like a neurotic Jewish tourist who didn’t speak a word of español? Yeah probably. But my Spanish doesn’t include a medical vocabulary. I cared more about my daughter than how I looked to the people I was talking to.
If you need to tell a group of non-English speaking people to evacuate and you don’t speak their language very well, find someone who does. New York has a couple of Spanish speakers who can do that for you. Hire them.
Oye! Republicoños! Voto para mi! Yo tengo mucho mucho mas more billioño dineros than el Trumpador.— Miguel Bloombito (@ElBloombito) January 25, 2016
Tell me the background on El Bloombito — and were your surprised at the attention you got? And are getting again? I created El Bloombito during Hurricane Irene. I was in my apartment with my then infant daughter watching Mayor Bloomberg on TV briefing everyone on the storm, and talking to friends and neighbors on Twitter at the same time. When the mayor started the Spanish routine all of my friends started laughing and joking about his Spanish. I created El Bloombito as a way to continue that joke with them. I had no idea it would take off the way it did or receive press attention. That was weird. I kept it up through the rest of his term because he kept doing stuff that warranted parody. I got another wave of attention during Hurricane Sandy too. As for the attention now, I’ve spent the last couple of days smirking.
Asko not what tu countryo can que do para tu, asko what tu countryo can do para me. #FeelTheBerg— Miguel Bloombito (@ElBloombito) January 24, 2016
You’re Jewish, and Puerto Rican. Tell me about how your ethnic/religious identity shapes your personal and world view? My mother is an Ashkenazi Jew from Brooklyn. She grew up in a very sheltered Jewish community. Then she went to college. Then she ran away with a Puerto Rican guy who looked like Erik Estrada and rode a motorcycle. Yadda yadda yadda, here I am. My father was a practicing Catholic until I was about 13. Then he sort of stopped going to church and confession and all that Catholic stuff. When I was 19 he converted to Judaism. Two years later he was president of our synagogue. Only in America.
Being a mixed kid in an interfaith family can be tough…especially if one of the mixed parents is brown. I get anti-Hispanic racism from Jews and anti-semitism from Puerto Ricans. I also get to share each of my heritages with the other. I grew up in New York City which has huge populations of both Jews and Puerto Ricans. It’s fun. And exhausting.
Yo runningo for presidente so el governmente of los billionairos, by los billionairos no que perisho de el eartho. #FeelTheBerg— Miguel Bloombito (@ElBloombito) January 25, 2016
Your thoughts on a Jew as commander-in-chief? Church and state are separate so as long as the president doesn’t make decisions based on the rules of his religion we should be fine. If a Jew makes it to the White House that would be nice, but I wouldn’t vote for someone solely because of Judaism.
John Oswald is The Forward’s deputy digital media editor.