The director of the Real Academia Española (RAE–Royal Spanish Academy) has rejected a suggestion to rename the Spanish language Ñamericano to recognize the continent where the majority of Spanish speakers now live. Founded in 1713, the RAE is widely revered for compiling and maintaining the authoritative Spanish language dictionary and is considered the gatekeeper for correct Spanish usage.
The rejection comes in response to Argentinian author and journalist Martín Caparrós’s call to rename Spanish Ñamericano, primarily to play down its colonial origins. At a press conference in March, Caparrós said, “The letter ñ is an ‘archetype’ that modifies the idea of ‘American’ to make it ours,” and he referred back to his 2021 book about Spanish speakers in the Americas, entitled Ñamérica. He added, “The globe is overflowing with countries speaking languages that still bear the name of the colonizing country. English and French, of course. Spanish, too.”
When asked to review the idea, director of the 46-member Royal Spanish Academy Santiago Muñoz Machado rejected the idea outright. “It’s a witticism, which is fine as a witticism,” Muñoz Machado explained to Spanish news agency EFE, adding, “No one doubts that the language is called Spanish or Castilian. Our constitution says Castilian, and in the Americas, they say Castilian or Spanish.”
In recent years the academy has made efforts to include the study and usage of Spanish in Latin America in the institution’s work, acknowledging a global community of Spanish speakers. Its headquarters, however, remain in Madrid, and its top officials are Spanish.
Caparrós and other campaigners have argued that the official gatekeeping of the Spanish language does not represent a global community, with less than 10% of the world’s half-billion native Spanish speakers living in Spain. Despite this, the country retains a disproportionate level of authority over Spanish language rules, status, and education.