(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- With a jazz bland blaring island music and a narrator touting Rick Santorum’s conservative credentials in Spanish, the Santorum family led a pop-up parade in their honor down a main thoroughfare in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursday afternoon.
While Santorum, his wife Karen and five of their seven children made their way down the cobblestone streets, supporters chanted, ”Rick Santorum, Rick Santorum!”
The family stopped to take photos and sign autographs both for those who can vote for him in the Republican primary in Puerto Rico on Sunday, and for Americans who seemed surprised when they ran into a presidential candidate while vacationing.
Carlos Rodriguez, Santorum’s deputy state director, was the designated narrator, and as the family made their way down the winding streets of Old San Juan, he told the crowd, “Vote for Rick Santorum.”
“Puerto Rico, the first Republican candidate is here today,” he said. “San Juan, vote for Rick Santorum, he’s the conservative candidate.”
When the family reached the ocean side, Santorum was asked again about some controversial comments he made while campaigning in the island earlier this week.
English, he told a local newspaper on Wednesday, should become the “principal language” of the territory if Puerto Rico wants to be the nation’s 51st state.
On Thursday, he told reporters, “English should be taught here and everyone should speak English here.”
“It’s something that I think is essential to be an American period,” Santorum said. ”Whether you’re going to be a state or not, people should speak English. And English should be a common language among all Americans. Period. And the idea that somehow or another it should be the only language -- it’s not the only language in California, it’s not the only language in Arizona, it’s not the only language in New Orleans -- we understand that people of different cultures speak different languages, but we have a common language, and that’s what I was saying yesterday. To suggest that maliciously, I would add, (that) someone would maliciously write that I said that, was really unfortunate.”
He told reporters before leaving the island that the original story was “crap.”
Statehood is a crucial issue on the island -- one that has divided the people there -- and during the two days Santorum spent campaigning for the territory’s 23 delegates, he was frequently asked about the issue.
Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898 and most Republicans on the island are supportive of statehood.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio