The Cervantes Institute will open its first center in Los Angeles, which will be “the home of Hispanic cultures,” according to Cervantes director Luis García Montero. Announcing the project at the Los Angeles Central Library last month, García Montero said that Los Angeles was a bilingual city “where Spanish has its role” and stressed the importance of the institute to reinforce the importance and prestige of Spanish and Hispanic culture.
The deputy mayor of the city and head of international relations, Nina Hachigian, recalled that Spanish was spoken in California before English, and publicly conveyed the full support of the mayor of Los Angeles for the creation of the institute. The mission of the new center will be to teach Spanish to everyone who wants it to be part of their culture, to serve the future of the city.
Spain’s secretary of state for international cooperation and for Latin America and the Caribbean, Juan Pablo de Laiglesia, insisted that this was a “pan-Hispanic initiative” that will help establish a common diplomacy among all Latin American countries. He stressed the importance of working closely with other Spanish-speaking nations: “You can’t speak Spanish in Los Angeles without being close to Mexico,” he said, adding that the new center will promote education, certification, and culture in Spanish in an area “where Spanish was never a foreign language.” The Mexican consul, Marcela Celorio, strongly criticized “policies that denigrate Spanish,” a language that in Los Angeles “not only serves as a means of communication, but also as a refuge, a way of belonging among those who speak it.” Spanish, in short, she said, is “a language that will always be ours.”
California is the state with the largest number of Hispanics, more than 15 million, in a country where almost 60 million Hispanics live and work.