Wednesday, December 8

Pan-Hispanicism, on guard | Culture

Toni Cantó at the presentation of the Office of Spanish and the next Hispanidad 2021 festival, on September 17 at the Círculo de Bellas Artes.
Toni Cantó at the presentation of the Office of Spanish and the next Hispanidad 2021 festival, on September 17 at the Círculo de Bellas Artes.Samuel Sanchez

The Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) took a fundamental turn three decades ago in its active linguistic policy. He drew on global roots and essences and from then on he promoted pan-Hispanicism as a strategy, philosophy and working method. It was just a question of returning to the path that the Venezuelan Andrés Bello, Simón Bolívar’s teacher, preached after the independence in the 19th century: claiming Spanish as a common cultural identity. As much from Mexico, Central America and the southern cone of the continent as from Spain or now, strongly, the United States. For this reason, when those in charge of ensuring the always fine strategy of language policy, such as the Academy itself or the Cervantes Institute, listen to speeches like those of Isabel Díaz Ayuso and her Spanish Office, they react.

The new initiative led by Toni Cantó has put them on guard. The RAE and Cervantes are willing to collaborate with any idea that they add. But they warn against the closed or economistic visions that, according to a few first steps, the Community of Madrid distills. “I am concerned that, due to lack of experience, the language is used for political reasons and with imperialist visions,” says the poet. Luis Garcia Montero, director of the Cervantes. Santiago Muñoz Machado, director of the RAE, affirms: “It represents a very serious danger that an attempt is made to highlight Spanish from a mainly economic point of view, when it is the greatest shared cultural heritage that we have on an equal basis with America.” And he adds: “Let’s not crowd or run over each other.” Cantó, meanwhile, has declined to comment.

The RAE and Cervantes have spent years jointly putting into practice, together with the 23 Spanish language institutions that exist in the world, the strategy of pan-Hispanicism. The first two and the Association of Academies of the Spanish Language (ASALE) coordinate the International Language Congresses that began in Zacatecas (Mexico) in 1997. And under the mandate of the Royal Academy of Victor Garcia de la Concha (1998-2010) Pan-Hispanicism was consolidated in a forceful way for the XXI century.

The Congress of the Spanish Language, at the San Martín theater in Córdoba (Argentina), this Wednesday.
The Congress of the Spanish Language, at the San Martín theater in Córdoba (Argentina), this Wednesday.

As soon as he was elected, he launched into agglutinating the linguistic consensus with the other Spanish-speaking countries. A work that he wove, he remembers, “through 54 trips through America.” But the idea needed concretion. Hence the Pan-Hispanic Dictionary of Doubts (2005). With this, the rule was relaxed to the maximum to cover all varieties of Spanish. In addition, all the RAE publications – from the Dictionary to the Spelling or the New Grammar – were prepared with the agreement of all the academies.

Today that coordination is constant, fruitful and practical. Technology has made it easier, he says Inés Fernández Ordóñez, philologist, professor of Spanish Language and member of the RAE. “With this we have maintained a common identity in the varieties. That normative Spanish embraces these differences gives the language flexibility. Today we have a huge corpus that represents the power of the language very well and has been greatly enriched by the constant observation of linguistic data in all countries. Technology has come in handy for pan-Hispanicism in that regard ”.

And collaboration is constant, as maintains Jorge Covarrubias, deputy director of the North American Academy of the Spanish Language (ANLE). “The momentum of pan-Hispanicism has accelerated remarkably in the last three or four decades. The situation has improved considerably for academies outside of Spain. With voice and vote ”, he assures.

“The works that since 1713 were exclusively from the RAE”, adds Covarrubias, “are now a consensual product of the 23 language institutions on four continents. I know why I participate in the Commission of the DLE (Dictionary of the Spanish Language) and I have collaborated in four other joint works: Basic Grammar, Dictionary of Americanisms, Style Book and Glossary of grammatical terms ”. This is how, through this form of collective work, it is clear to him that there is no Spanish superior to another. “And that the 500 million Spanish speakers form a chorus that admits all the variations although it tends to preserve unity.”

All this does nothing but record what Pan-Hispanicism represents for Muñoz Machado: “An ideology and a working method.” “Spanish is not only the language of Spain. We believe in that ”, he adds. García Montero supports it with data: “We [los españoles] we only represent 8% within a community with 493 million native speakers, according to the latest Cervantes annual report ”.

García Montero and Muñoz Machado agree that Pan-Hispanicism emerged as an idea more than 200 years ago. “The RAE incorporated it very early, then as a doctrine. He had that ability, he accepts that perspective and from the outset discards purism, ”says García Montero. And it was not easy. “After political independence, some leaders and countries proposed that they should also promote cultural independence, including adopting French as a language in some of the new nations,” says Muñoz Machado. But it was Andrés Bello’s philosophy that imposed language as a common continental value, they recall. That light is still alive today with a collective effort reactivated in the 21st century by those who watch over language policies. “Fortunately, it is not the governments,” says Muñoz Machado. “These, for now, have left it in the hands of those who understand the matter.”

The strategy that the RAE, ASALE and Cervantes have developed has the word under control, pending the continuous evolution, imagination and vividness of street speech as the basis of a common culture, and attentive to the fact that, in the time of populism and frivolity, all that does not blow up.

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