Donald Trump tries out his Spanish accent as Melania dons flamenco-style skirt for Hispanic Heritage Month

Our Foreign Staff
President Donald Trump is flanked by first lady Melania Trump as he speaks to guests gathered in the East Room to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, on October 6, 2017 in Washington, DC - Getty Images North America

President Donald Trump on Friday played with the pronunciation of Puerto Rico as he saluted Hispanic Heritage Month at the White House.

Trump drew out the name in an accented fashion three times - "Pueeeeerto Rico" - telling the crowd, "We love Pueeeeerto Rico." Then he said it without any accent: "And we also love Puerto Rico."

That got a laugh from the crowd of Hispanic leaders gathered in the East Room of the White House, and Trump' s other statements of support for the recovering U.S. territories drew cheers.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were walloped last month by Hurricane Maria and are struggling to recover.

Trump visited Puerto Rico this week, and Vice President Mike Pence toured St. Croix on Friday and was headed for Puerto Rico as well.

Trump uses a Spanish accent to say "Puerto Rico" twice during a Hispanic Heritage Month event pic.twitter.com/v5qFTiqSjM

— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) October 6, 2017

Trump has rankled Hispanics with his tough immigration policies, including building a border wall between the United States and Mexico, and he drew sharp criticism for his initial response to the toll Maria took on Puerto Rico. 

US First Lady Melania Trump listens during a Hispanic Heritage Month event in the East Room of the White House October 6, 2017 in Washington, DC Credit: AFP

Critics have said the president was slow to recognise the magnitude of the hurricane's impact early on and has overstated the effectiveness of federal recovery efforts.

Last month, Trump signed a proclamation marking Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month. In the proclamation, Trump mentioned that Hispanic-owned small businesses are the fastest growing businesses in America.

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive to host an event to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 6, 2017 Credit: Reuters

He moved from behind the microphone on Friday to hug a Medal of Honor recipient in the crowd, and said that 60 Latinos in the Armed Forces have been awarded the Medal of Honor.