(CNN) - When Alejandra Cabrera speaks English, it doesn't quite roll off of her tongue the way it does when she speaks in her native Spanish.
Instead of the confident, strong way she speaks in Spanish to the residents of San Luis, Arizona, she speaks a bit more slowly, and perhaps with a bit less conviction, when she switches to English. That's something she admits, but she says that she can communicate at the level she needs to in English, given where she lives.
Cabrera is like many of her fellow citizens in the border town of San Luis who are working to perfect their English-language skills. In the town, 87% of residents speak a language other than English in their home and 98.7% are of Hispanic origin, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. After all, most of the people there, by all accounts, will speak in English and in Spanish. In the comfort of communal settings, they'll speak the way their most comfortable: Many of the restaurants there will be perfectly happy to take your order in Spanish. It's part of the culture of the town.
“You go to a market, it’s Spanish,” Cabrera told The New York Times. “You go to a doctor, it’s Spanish. When you pay the bills for the lights or water, it’s Spanish.”
So why the focus on Cabrera and her language skills? Because when it comes to politics, it's a whole separate ballgame.
And that's why a major debate about English proficiency has taken the town by storm.
That's because when Cabrera threw her name in the hat to run for city council, Juan Carlos Escamilla, the former mayor of San Luis, said he was concerned that she might not have the proper grasp of the language for the job. Escamilla filed a lawsuit in December that asked a court to determine if Cabrera's skills qualified her under state law to run for the council seat.