We live in the USA and therefore, we speak English. But we know that on any street and corner of this country populated by immigrants, we could easily find ourselves traveling across the world through the languages of people that have made the US their home.
Among these other languages, Spanish is king. In fact, in states such as California, Texas or New Mexico, more than 40 percent of the population is Hispanic, and in cities such as New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, their presence is growing at such a pace that, in year 2050, the U.S. will be the top Spanish-speaking country in the world. According to the last U.S. census, the projected Hispanic population for that year is 138 million, 30 percent of the nation’s population.
Spanish is the second primary language in the world, the second most-used language in international fora, and the third most-used language online, according to the study ‘El español, una lengua viva’ ("Spanish, a Language Alive"), released last year.
Today more than 500 million people speak Spanish around the world, and 48 million of them live in the US. All those numbers should make us think about the cultural and economic impact of a language that is already changing the configuration of a country that should make every effort to embrace the richness that such a heterogeneous population is bringing to it. From business to education to politics, literature, music, movies or food, the idiosyncratic character of the Hispanic universe, built through 21 different countries plus the specific characteristics of those who grew in the U.S., are a powerful force from which all Americans could, and should, take advantage.
Conscious of the role that the Spanish language was going to play in the world, twenty years ago the Spanish government created Instituto Cervantes. The institution’s goal is to promote and teach the Spanish language, and to spread the culture of those countries that speak Spanish --something that the French and German governments did many years ago through the Alliance Francaise and the Goethe Institute. Today, there are 78 Instituto Cervantes branches spread among 44 countries. In the US, there are already five: one each in New York, Albuquerque, Chicago, Seattle and Boston.
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This Saturday, June 18, Instituto Cervantes is inviting the whole world to celebrate ‘El día E’: the day of the Spanish language.
The idea of creating a day dedicated to the native language of genius writer Cervantes, of recent awarded Literature Nobel Prize Mario Vargas Llosa or Hollywood star Antonio Banderas, was born three years ago when Instituto Cervantes reached its 18th birthday. A date was chosen for the festivities: The Saturday before Summer solstice, which usually marks the end of the academic year.
Each center organizes an open-doors day with cultural activities such as crossword games, concerts or theater. (The Instituto Cervantes in New York will celebrate "El día E" from 11 a.m. to 2 p. m. and include a children theatre piece, Mi mama es un héroe, by Scaramouches Traveling Latin Children,as part of the TeatroStageFest.) It’s an open invitation to citizens of the world to celebrate the strength of a language that is fast spreading in many countries, but that acquires a particular significance in the U.S.
It seems undeniable that Spanish is in the United States to stay. That’s why, in a city like New York, where a Latino immigrant could easily survive without any knowledge of English, the observance of “El día E” could become an occasion for rejoicing for all its citizens, who have nothing to lose and many things to gain from a language and a culture that is embracing the U.S. as its XXI century home.
Barbara Celis, Communications Advisor at Instituto Cervantes New York