Miguel Bloombito: the incredible Spanish of Michael Bloomberg

The @ElBloombito Twitter account is a running -- and hilarious -- sendup of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's terrible Spanish. Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams profiled Rachel Figueroa-Levin, the mastermind behind the account.

In the past two days, El Bloombito’s pidgin Español Twitter stream has been a balm to disaster-scarred New Yorkers, a bracingly funny respite from the ravages of Sandy. Prior to the storm, it was Bloombito who warned New Yorkers, “Cuidado! El stormo somos about to que vamos el lañdfall! Batteño los hatches!” and “Por favor to remaiño insidero until notice de furthero. Peligroso!” Afterward, it was Bloombito who reminded, “El floodo agua esta still todos los everywhere. Necesitos los gearo de scuba y el flipper!”

Speaking to Salon while her toddler daughter takes a post-Sandy afternoon nap, Figueroa-Levin says El Bloombito originally “gave me something to do while I was stuck inside” during Irene. As it happened, the account attracted an instant following — and the attention of Mike Bloomberg himself — who admitted last year that “Es difícil para aprender un nuevo idioma.”

“I don’t know why he does it,” Figueroa-Levin says. “Not that my Spanish is that fantastic, but I live in a neighborhood where it’s common. I grew up hearing it. I’m Puerto Rican. And I don’t know who he thinks he’s talking to. In fact, last year I had an elderly Dominican neighbor tell me he thought Bloomberg was Italian.”

Meet the woman behind “El Bloombito” (via Making Light)


  1. My Spanish is probably not much better, but I can get by in medical situations.  With Spanish speaking patients who don’t speak English, I usually start by explaining “Yo hablo Espanol como un gringo.”  They almost always laugh, and we get by. 

    1. I’m not in anything as vitally important as the medical field, and my Spanish is pretty grotesque, but I got by in retail.  Numbers are easy.

      I took two years in high school and another in college, was the top of my class even, but it rapidly degraded once I stopped using it all the time.

      It’s funny.  Not like riding a bike at all.  I can still write proficiently, but reading’s a lot slower, and speaking is out of the question for anything more complex than explaining who I am, what I do, where I want to go, how to get places, and what I want.  Anything beyond that and I sound like David Sedaris’ description of his French: like a hillbilly demon toddler.

      I remember his example: “when I having of myself eight, the mouth man make me wore a fence in my head.”

      1. Sedaris is great, BBC radio has a series of him reading his own stuff.  I do have someone close by who’s bilingual, if there’s anything the patient or I don’t understand, we get help. 

        1. Yeah, when I was working in retail, and I had a hard time understanding, I’d apologize and ask them to write down what they wanted to say.  But usually the Spanish speakers either knew enough English for me to understand (incredibly embarrassing, made me feel incompetent and generally lame) or they came in with a friend or relative who was fluently bilingual.

          I was told on multiple occasions, “let’s just use English” and I’d sheepishly reply “that’s probably fastest.”

      2. I can read French and Spanish pretty well 37 years after high school, but my attempts to speak it are pretty sad.  Unless I’m drunk  Or I’ve just flown from Cairo to Paris on a medical evacuation flight and have to negotiate a hospital stay for someone with acute delirium.  In both those cases, fluency kicks in hard.

  2. I understand how this can happen very well.  You learn enough to speak and read Spanish at one point and it gets linked in to how you speak and just comes out from time to time.  It’s not like he claims to be Cervantes or anything.

    What would be interesting is to track the most obvious gaffes and see if he fixes them in later postings.  He must know where he’s reaching for Spanish vocabulary and failing miserably.  If not, well then he needs to seek professional help.

    What’s the going rate for conversational Spanish tutors?

  3. “When asked if Bloomberg might next consider ditching Lydia Callis and incorporating his own sign language moves into his press conferences, Figueroa-Levin laughs, “Oh God, that would be terrible!””
    That twitter feed would suck. Besides, the mime already did it.

  4. Inwood, where Levin lives is a pretty cool place.  I lived there for 7 years, and there’s a nice local twitter community.  Bloomberg himself thinks El Bloombito is funny, so no harm done.  New Yorkers like a mayor who dosen’t take himself too seriously.

    1. One of the big barriers that learners have to overcome is getting laughed at by native speakers for their poor language skills. If you can laugh at yourself making mistakes, you’ve made some good progress towards becoming fluent.

  5. I’ve been told that the Castellano accent is abrasive here in the Americas, while the Latin American accents are equally abrasive in Spain. They think we sound like stupid hicks, while we think they sound fruity and pompous.

    I’d like to find a guide to learning Latin American Spanish, but the search has yielded little.

    1. There is no such thing as Latin American Spanish. It’s different in every country/region (though to varying degrees). 

    2. Trying simultaneously conversing with someone from Puerto Rico and someone from Chile. If you didn’t speak Spanish, you probably wouldn’t even recognize them as the same language.

    3. I worked with some Cuban guys in Arizona, who told me the mexicans spoke “shit spanish”. The Mexican guys said the same thing about the Cubans.
      Go figure, everybody thinks they are better than everyone else.

  6. I guess I get the humour of it, but is the point to say that if we don’t speak a language, we should never bother to try learning it?

    I took Spanish for years, but it is very rusty now and I sound like Tarzan at best.  “Estoy caliente” is not a good way to comment on the weather.  My French is much worse, but I still harbor aspirations of immersing myself and getting better at both.  Does that mean I will deserve to be mocked for trying?

    1. Does that mean I will deserve to be mocked for trying?

      if, over the course of multiple years of trying, you continue to gesticulate wildly while screaming, “The empty is yellow!”, then yes, you will be mocked.

    2. I guess I get the humour of it, but is the point to say that if we don’t speak a language, we should never bother to try learning it?

      Moot point.  Are you the mayor of a major city who is attempting in his own bizarre way to communicate to his constituents via your barely existent language skills? Nope.  Bloomberg could just step aside & let someone more fluent in the language translate what he says, but he doesn’t that is the crux of the joke here: It’s not his lack of language skills as much as his utter disconnect from what he is doing. His command of Spanish is reminiscent of someone who knows enough to tell their maid & butler what to do… ¿Comprende?

    3. “Does that mean I will deserve to be mocked for trying?”
      yes. but keep trying, because the mocking will make you try harder :-)
      (How do you make the little box around the quote?)

  7. Mi aerodeslizador es lleno de anguilas. Bájate los calzones, Sir William, no puedo esperar hasta la hora del almuerzo. Mis pezones estallan de alegría.

    Maybe Bloomberg has realized by now his tweets cause his twitter follower’s nipples to explode with delight so he continues for this reason. In any case, while we can legitimately giggle, Bloomberg pushing on with trying to use his newly learned Spanish skills w/o worrying too much about how he sounds is the only was to really become capable with a new language.

  8. I somehow managed to turn the TV to the news channel broadcasting this speech. My first thought was WTF?  My second one was, What the hell?  Could he not have had someone at least write the correct language down phonetically?  

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