Is a “European capital of Spanish” necessary? The Community of Madrid, governed by Isabel Díaz Ayuso, of the PP, has decided that it is and for that battle it has announced the creation of a body that will depend on the Ministry of Culture and will be directed by the actor Toni Cantó, former Citizen. The Office of Spanish is still an ethereal body and whose proclaimed aims do not seem to have been written precisely with an attractive prose: “It will seek synergies with international cultural entities to carry out actions to enhance Spanish, and it will manage reports and meetings that promote the debate around the potential of Spanish, locating in the Community of Madrid the meeting of experts and opinion leaders ”.
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Meanwhile, Toni Cantó has assured at the request of this newspaper that he will not speak until he takes office, an act that has been delayed until July 16. President Ayuso said that the office will seek “great benefits not only in the cultural and academic sphere, but also in the tourist, economic and business areas”, as well as the “active collaboration with entities within the Community of Madrid that work for the impulse of the Spanish ”. The main institution that could feel alluded to, the Cervantes Institute, dependent on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has preferred not to jump into the political arena. “Anything that is promoting the Spanish industry, in any autonomous community, is positive,” its director, Luis García Montero, told EL PAÍS, recalling, however, that “language tourism” is not only exploited by other autonomous communities. , “But also Mexico, Colombia or Argentina.” Cervantes promotes and teaches Spanish around the world, with centers in 89 cities in 45 countries. This “language tourism” was referred to this week by the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Sports of the Community of Madrid, Marta Rivera de la Cruz, to defend the position of Cantó, which has transpired that he will charge 75,000 euros per year. However, the counselor admitted in the Madrid Assembly that for now the Office “does not have an independent structure or budget.”
Meanwhile, the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), which takes care of the evolution of Spanish without breaking its unity, has preferred not to say a word. Ayuso visited it in October and then announced his intention to turn Madrid into the “world capital of Spanish”, a bar that has lowered at the European level given the null support it found. However, Darío Villanueva, academic and former director of the RAE between 2015 and 2019, has declared by phone that “due to the little information there is about this project, it seems to indicate that it will not go much beyond a name and a controversy” . Villanueva is opposed to “multiplying initiatives, when we are lucky that the Cervantes and the RAE are complementary.” His skepticism leads him to point out that “proclaiming Madrid as the European capital of Spanish is a tautology, that is to say that water is H2O, who is going to dispute that position?” What needs to be done, he points out, “is to take advantage of Brexit so that our language becomes a main place in the functioning of the EU, but this must be taken care of by the State, not an autonomous community.”
There are precisely two autonomies that have traditionally dealt more with Spanish. “Castilla y León and La Rioja even contribute resources to the RAE”, adds Villanueva. “In San Millán de la Cogolla there is a language study center and in Burgos there is the Castellano and Leonés de la Lengua Institute.”
“Salamanca, city of Spanish”
Thus, it has been the cities that compete to attract tourists who want to learn Spanish that have responded with the most forcefulness. Salamanca is one of the most involved thanks to its university, which receives more than 35,000 students a year. A 2018 report on the University of Salamanca (USAL) revealed that it contributes 7% of the provincial GDP and that each euro invested in this institution generates a return of more than six, in addition to 10,000 jobs. This, among other reasons, thanks to the “Salamanca, city of Spanish” seal, a language tourism brand that brings together 16 Spanish schools in the city and is used for its promotion abroad. Ayuso’s proposal has surprised because only in the last four years the Salamanca City Council has held 90 events in 15 countries to show the value of the language. From the USAL they defend their “consolidated leadership” and foresee that the Cantó Office “will not have much of a journey.” The mayor, Carlos García Carbayo (PP), has warned his party companion that the city will “stick its elbows” to keep this band.
The language is also a heritage that Valladolid boasts, a city that was popularly said to speak the best Spanish, although listening to its mayor, Óscar Puente, of the PSOE, call Cantó “shit” and “memo” don’t help. Apart from the political mud, the City Council and the University have been linked for years to attract visitors. The latest example is from July 5, with the arrival of 100 teachers from various European countries to receive classes in classrooms and on the street. These will be joined by another 300 throughout this month.
Proclaiming Madrid the European capital of Spanish is a tautology, it is like saying that water is H2O, who is going to dispute that position?
Darío Villanueva, academic and former director of the RAE
These teachers will help to continue the expansion of Spanish, which in the last decade has increased its speakers by 33%, according to the latest report the Spanish in the world, which the Cervantes presents every year. Spanish is the third most widely spoken language, behind English and Mandarin Chinese, with 586 million people, 7.5% of the global population. Almost 489 million have it as their mother tongue, and that is where only Chinese surpasses it. That explosion of Spanish should not be sought in any region of the Peninsula, but in America. The countries with the most native speakers of Spanish are Mexico, Colombia and, in third place, Spain, with 123.7 million, 49.9 and 43.2. Spanish in Spain represents only 8% of the total of this language and, as Cervantes often insists, the workhorse for the future will be the United States. Forecasts place it in 2060 as the second country in Spanish-speakers, behind Mexico. .
Gonzalo Celorio, director of the Mexican Academy of Language, raises the debate by pointing out that “for at least three decades”, the academies of the Spanish language, today 24, “have struggled to establish a pan-Hispanic policy that does not privilege any linguistic norm over another ”. “Considering the dissemination of a particular rule (minority, however important it may be in historical terms) goes against the pan-Hispanic character,” he explains.
Ayuso “is getting on an important car, the language market,” says Concepción Company, emeritus researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and a member of the National College. She is from Madrid, but has lived in Mexico since the 1970s. A member of the Mexican Academy of Language, he assures that the Madrid proposal is “absurd and absurd”. “It does not seem right to me that someone with an absolute lack of vision and understanding of what interlinguistic games and migratory flows are, say that a city is going to be the center of the Spanish language, it is a small-town vision.”
“The proposal of the Madrid president is crazy and nonsense”
Concepción Company, of the Mexican Academy of Language
In Colombia, Instituto Caro y Cuervo it works for the richness of the language and not for what its director, Carmen Millán, describes as “banal nationalism”. “The reality of the language is reflected in things as beautiful as the dictionaries of Americanisms and recognizing that there is a common language, but it is a transplanted language and has its own fruits,” he describes. In addition to Spanish, Caro y Cuervo recognizes the 65 indigenous languages, Romani, mixtures of Spanish with English (such as creole Caribbean) … For Millán there is another more urgent question: “The scientific language continues to be English.”
Margarita Valencia, professor of the editorial studies master’s degree at Caro y Cuervo, considers the proposal an “imperialist delusion.” “I think that all this has a mark of class and race, all this of what is the correct Spanish, and that is very hateful.”
As the chotis said Madrid, which was composed by a Mexican, Agustín Lara, the Spanish capital may be “the cradle of the requiebro”, but from there to that it is Spanish, it only serves for now, as the lyrics continue, to “put together the tremolina.