With the news breaking that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called himself “Hispanic” on his 2009 voter registration form—and that in 2012 he called himself Florida’s first-ever Latino governor—it’s worth revisiting a 2013 profile of him in the Washington Post that found friends of his referring to him as having “gone native” as a Hispanic.
Bush is a “gringo aplatanado,” said Jorge Arrizurieta—a Miami businessman who worked with Bush’s gubernatorial administration on various trade issues in Latin America. A phrase the Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia and Peter Wallsten wrote translates roughly to mean “he’s gone native.”
The Post writers said Jeb Bush is an “honorary Hispanic,” something that dates back to the 1970s when he met his wife Columba—a Mexican citizen.
“The unlikely evolution of John Ellis “Jeb” Bush into a sort of honorary Hispanic loops back to 1970 and a tree-lined square in Leon, a colonial-era city in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato,” they wrote. “Bush, then a teenager and student at the elite Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., was in Mexico for a three-month exchange program. One Sunday, he spotted a girl in the back of a car promenading around the square. She struck him as ‘beautiful,’ and so did her name: Columba Garnica de Gallo.”
Bush’s team says he made a mistake when he stated in a legal document that he’s Hispanic.
“It’s unclear where the paperwork error was made,” Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said in an email in response to a New York Times article on his 2009 voter registration form. “The Governor’s family certainly got a good laugh out of it. He is not Hispanic.”
Bush himself, and his son Jeb, Jr., played it off a little bit differently via Twitter. His son playfully suggested that Jeb checked the wrong box, then the former Florida Governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate admitted to doing so—both using the hash tag “Honorary Latino.”
They’re not the only ones thinking that way.
“Culturally, Jeb is even more Hispanic than many in the young generation of Hispanics in America today,” former American Conservative Union (ACU) chairman Al Cardenas told the Washington Post for that 2013 profile. Cardenas is a close friend of Bush’s who was pushed out of his ACU leadership role after failures the past couple years. “Not only is his cultural affinity seamless with us, but he speaks the language, something that probably 50 percent of the younger generation do not. He’s totally bilingual and bicultural in every sense.”
Miami Dade County mayor Carlos Gimenez said for the Post profile that Jeb Bush is a permanent Hispanic. “There’s never an Anglo Jeb and then a turn-on-the-Hispanic Jeb,” Gimenez said.
He would know, since according to the Post Gimenez “tees off most Sunday mornings minutes after Bush’s 7 a.m. tee time at the golf course at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla.”
Ana Navarro, another close political ally of Bush’s, told the Washington Post she communicates with him in Spanish frequently rather than in English.
“I usually speak and write in Spanish with him, shifting seamlessly between English and Spanish,” Navarro said.