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Cultural Compass

Tribute to a Beautiful Language

A Literary Force Called Spanish

Miguel de Cervantes, born 471 years ago this September, authored 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.”

Don Quixote, sketch by Salvador Dali. Private Collection.

But not even the ingenious errant knight could have predicted the reach and vitality the Spanish-language enjoys today. 500 million people speak it worldwide. In the U.S., Spanish is the most studied and spoken foreign language. In effect, many no longer consider it a foreign language, wielding as evidence bilingual cities like Miami 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 dollars.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population approximates 56 million, representing 17% 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% are bilingual, 25% mainly use English and 38% use primarily Spanish.

A Literary Language par Excellence

Despite derogatory allusions and xenophobic currents, Spanish remains a language of literary excellence. It boasts 11 Nobel laureates in Literature. What better tribute to this beautiful language than a lesson from three masters:

Gabriel García Márquez

Todos los seres humanos tienen tres vidas: pública, privada y secreta. “All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.”

Pablo Neruda

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.”

Miguel de Cervantes

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.’

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