At last month’s inauguration of Spain’s newest Cervantes Institute extension in El Paso, Texas, Luis García Montero, the institute’s director, said the goal was to promote Spanish as a “language of interracial mixing and understanding (lengua de mestizaje y entendimiento)” and that the new presence of the institute in the Texas city “has a fundamental symbolic value because it is a place of frontier, of coexistence.”
This is an extension of the Albuquerque institute in neighboring New Mexico, which is located on the campus of the University of the Southwest, where it will offer Spanish classes and activities that promote pride in Hispanic culture.
During the inauguration, García Montero said that the U.S. was “a fundamental point of reference for the pan-Hispanic community,” made up of more than 500 million people who speak Spanish, the world’s second mother tongue (after Chinese) and the second for international communication (behind English). The goal, he explained, was to disseminate and defend the presence and future of Hispanic culture in the U.S.—the country with the second highest number of native Spanish speakers, only behind Mexico and ahead of Colombia and Spain.
García Montero noted that this was the second Cervantes center on the long border that separates the U.S. and Mexico (the first being in San Diego) and that its opening coincided with the 30th anniversary of the creation of the institute in 1991, a decision that was “the fruit of democracy.”
Culture, a Vaccine against Supremacism
“The border landscape of El Paso is a call to cultural understanding, to the commitment to human rights from the most creative of cultures,” claimed García Montero. The El Paso institute will focus on culture, with programs dedicated to interracial mixing and respect, understanding, and shared history, because “culture is the best vaccine against supremacism and racism.” Regarding the teaching of Spanish, he stressed that classes will be given to suit various professions, including doctors and nurses, since the University of the Southwest is well recognized for its health disciplines. “We carry the name of El Paso in our hearts as something of ours,” concluded García Montero, not without remembering that the new extension joins other prominent Cervantes presences in the country: the centers of New York, Chicago, and Albuquerque, as well as the Observatory of Hispanic Languages located at Harvard University (Cambridge).