Today, the Spanish speaking world honors Miguel de Cervantes, author of the first modern novel and one of the best ever written, Don Quixote. Vladimir Nabokov put it, “Don Quixote looms so wonderfully above the skyline of literature...He stands for everything that is gentle, forlorn, pure, unselfish, and gallant.”
But not even the ingenious errant knight could have predicted the reach and vitality the Spanish-language enjoys today. Five hundred million people speak it worldwide.
In the United States, Spanish is the most studied and spoken foreign language. In effect, many no longer consider it a foreign language, wielding bilingual cities like Miami as evidence, and bilingual commercials aired during the epitome of mainstream, the Super Bowl.
Not for nothing Hispanics are close to commanding a purchasing power of $1.5 trillion.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population approximates 54 million, representing 17 percent of the total population, and by 2050 it is expected to reach 106 million.
Pew Research Center breaks down Hispanics into three groups when it comes to language: 36 percent are bilingual, 25 percent mainly use English and 38 percent use primarily Spanish.
Consequently, presidential hopefuls are brushing up on their Spanish or hiring experts to woo Hispanic voters, who can very well decide the election.
Sen. Marco Rubio leads the pack in Spanish fluency. Gov. Jeb Bush is way ahead of Texan Ted Cruz.
Hillary Clinton doesn’t speak Spanish, but her campaign website proclaims: Todos necesitan un campeón. Yo quiero ser tu campeón. ‘We all need a champion. I want to be your champion.’ Spanish is gender specific, the correct would be campeona. “That’s irrelevant,” said a Hispanic activist. “What matters is the message. I have heard other candidates saying in perfect Spanish, mi casa es su casa, ‘my house is your house,’ while pushing legislation to kick immigrants out.”
And to close the circle, despite derogatory ghetto allusions, Spanish is the language of literary excellence boasting 11 Literature Nobel Prize winners. So, what better tribute to our beautiful language than a lesson from three masters:
- Todos los seres humanos tienen tres vidas: pública, privada y secreta. ‘All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.’ Gabriel García Márques.
- Para mi corazón basta tu pecho, para tu libertad bastan mis alas. ‘Your breast is enough for my heart, and my wings for your freedom.’ Pablo Neruda.
- Demasiada cordura puede ser la peor de las locuras, ver la vida como es y no como debería de ser. ‘Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.’ Miguel de Cervantes.
Raúl Guerrero, academic director, Downtown Arts and Science Salon , Miami