Commentary written by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow for the Globe and Mail.
Strangely, Americans see immigration reform as a way to “solve” a problem, when really it represents a historic opportunity for Americans to embrace their country’s unique Latino personality – in the same way that English Canada acknowledged its French component 50 years ago.
Latino culture and the Spanish language are not “foreign” to the United States. They were present on the continent before the foundation of the United States. In fact, the 21 (other) Spanish-speaking countries in the world consider the U.S., at least partly, as one of their own.
Many elements of Americana – the dollar sign, the dollar itself, ranch and cowboy culture, barbecues, mustangs and more – are Latino in origin. Spanish was the first European language spoken on U.S. territory. The oldest contracts, writs and charters date to the founding of St. Augustine, Fla., in 1565 by Spanish settlers – 42 years before Jamestown and 43 years before Quebec City. Read more »
By Julie Barlow
Photo: PR News Foto/Red Lobster
We were struck by this article in Businessweek on Red Lobster finally trying to break into the Latino market. Red Lobster is kind of late getting into the game. Major U.S. brands and companies have searched for ways to get Latinos to part with their cash for some time now.
What really struck us is: this is only the tip of the iceberg.
We first noticed American businesses’ great drive to capture the “Latino market” in 2009, when we saw a MasterCard billboard on the highway on our way into Phoenix Arizona. It was in Spanish and it advertised “lessons” on using credit. Who knew that Latinos are particularly averse to using credit and largely prefer using cash?
It was earlier on in our research for The Story of Spanish, and we still assumed the phenomenon of advertising to Latinos to be a peculiarity of the U.S. Southwest. Wrong we were! It turns out Hispanics represent roughly 17% of the U.S. population, and while not the richest segment of the population, they are the group whose per capita income is growing the fastest. Any U.S. company thinking about the future can’t avoid the Latino factor: Latinos are getting richer, but they won’t necessarily buy what everyone else buy, or be swayed by the same sales pitch, whether in Spanish or English. Read more »
Questions From Our Readers
I am a Franco American trying very hard to rediscover my French. I am at my wit’s end with questions asked of me: “Do you speak real French or Québecois?!” I know you surely have heard this before. But here is my question: How did it happen… historically, politically… that speaking French in Canada became known as Québécois, implying a language (dialect?) other than French? Did the expression le québecois originate from the people of Québec who themselves wanted to identify their “parler français” as their own, and for what reason? Or did the term come from elsewhere? It seems to me that the French spoken in Québec, Canada and New England is French. People in Mississippi do not say they speak Mississippian because their accent or certain expressions are proper to them. Read more »
By Jean-Benoît Nadeau & Julie Barlow
January 1st marks the 54th anniversary of the end of the 1959 Cuban Revolution that ended five years of brutal revolutionary war. But it also marks the beginning of a new chapter for Spanish in the United States. The Cuban Revolution triggered the migration of over one million Cubans to the U.S. Those immigrants would go on to be one of the most dynamic, influential and entrepreneurial Hispanic groups in the U.S.
The relationship between Cuba and the U.S. has never been smooth. In the first decade of the 19th century, president Thomas Jefferson dreamed of annexing Cuba. The largest, most populous island of the Caribbean and only 140 km off the coast of Florida, Cuba was regarded as a natural appendage of the United States. In 1848, president James Polk tried to purchase Cuba for 100 million dollars (worth 3 billion today), but Spain refused to part with the island. Read more »
By Jean-Benoît Nadeau & Julie Barlow
Photo: Arnold Böcklin
The prediction that the world will end on December 21st or 22nd is actually the 183rd one that we know of – since Nostradamus predicted the end of the world in 1555. In other words, over the last four and a half centuries, the world should have ended every two and a half years.
But supposedly this is the Big One. The proof? The Mayan calendar is coming to the end of a long 5000-year cycle.
However, there is a big problem with this reasoning. The way calendars work, when one cycle ends, another one starts. It’s like a clock. When the hands have gone around once, they start again. Cars don’t explode when they reach 100 000 kilometers on the meter: the meter rolls over to 100 001. No one thinks there’s anything amazing about that, except maybe watching five digits roll over into six. So why would the end of a calendar cycle necessary spell doom?
There’s another problem with this End of the World prophecy: we are not really in 2012. Read more »
By Jean-Benoît Nadeau & Julie Barlow
I just love the celebrations surrounding the Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas, La Guadalupe. This year, it falls on a date some find ominous: 12-12-12. That’s a mere nine days before the infamous 12-21-12, the day the world is supposed to end according to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar.
Every time I go to Mexico City, I visit the basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe). Though considered one of Mexico’s most important architectural attractions, the circular basilica in Mexico City doesn’t hold a candle to other sites – the massive Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán, the Temple of Palenque in the jungle of Chiapas or the massive murals painted by Diego de Rivera in Mexico’s National Palace are far more impressive.
Yet, as the site of an astonishing human spectacle, nothing else in Mexico compares. Read more »
Photo: Veronica Louis
When it comes to learning new languages, we all have our own reasons. Let it be for personal development, career advancement or maybe even to be able to read a book in its language of origin, the reasons are numerous and varied.
In a recent feature in the Huffington Post, “17 Reasons Every American Should Learn Spanish” many appealing reasons for learning Spanish were listed. Among them: “reduces the risk of Alzheimer” and “it makes you smarter.”
What were your reasons for learning Spanish? We would be interested to know why our readers joined millions of others in learning a language that is the mother tongue of over 450 million people worldwide.
The reasons why Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow learned Spanish might be different but they are equally important. Below, discover why the authors of The Story of Spanish decided to learn the language of Cervantes.
I originally started learning Spanish in 1989 because I was dying to travel to Central America, a Cold War hot spot at the time. Unfortunately I never got to Central America and I had to put Spanish on the back burner. Read more »
Photo : Bernard Gagnon/CC 3.0
There’s nothing recent about Catalonia’s move towards independence. In fact, few may be aware of just how far back in history the roots of Catalonia’s “difference” go.
Catalonia has always been on the outskirts of Spain. Geographically close to France, it actually started out as part of France, 1200 years ago. The French originally founded it as a buffer kingdom to prevent Muslims, who ruled Spain at the time, from moving north and taking over France.
In its early centuries, the Catalan language also travelled a path distinct from the other tongues spoken on the Iberian Peninsula. Catalan started out as one of a myriad of Latin-based Romance dialects spoken in the dozens of duchies and kingdoms that covered the Iberian Peninsula. In the Middle Ages, the Kings of Castile gradually conquered Spain during the Reconquista and drove out most of the other languages spoken on the Peninsula, in favor or Castilian. The Catalonians, along with the Basques and the Portuguese, were among the few groups that managed to keep the Castilians at bay. So their languages survived.
Throughout the Middle Ages, as the Castilians kept spreading their power throughout the Iberian Peninsula, Catalonia continued to elude Castile’s control. At the beginning of the 18th century, one Castilian king tried to change this. Spain’s Felipe V understood how language could help him in spreading his own power. So he outlawed Catalan as an administrative language, forbade its teaching, and stripped Catalonia of its capacity for self-rule. Predictably, the language declined. Read more »
Although Americans associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrim Fathers, the first Thanksgiving in the United States was actually celebrated in Spanish half a century before the arrival of the Mayflower.
The event, that took place on September 8, 1565, was organized by the Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to offer thanks for the founding of the city of St. Augustine, Florida. Soldiers, colonists and priests attended the ceremony that started with a mass and ended with a feast. This was 42 years before the founding of Jamestown, and 56 years before the arrival of the Mayflower.
The second Thanksgiving took place on April 30, 1598, when Franciscan monks accompanying the last Spanish conquistador, Juan de Oñate, celebrated a high mass in honor of Oñate claiming the lands north of Rio Grande for Spain. Born in Zacatecas in 1550, Oñate became the first American to celebrate Thanksgiving.
The story of Thanksgiving underlines – once again – how deep the U.S.’ Hispanic roots really are. The United States is not “becoming” Hispanic: it always has been, even if American history books are strangely myopic about the topic. Read more »
“You don’t have to know any Spanish to enjoy this charming biography of what is perhaps the world’s least appreciated major language. But you will come to understand its rich history and poetic beauty — and why our children and their children will, in ever greater numbers, be dreaming in Spanish.”
-Donald Morrison former Editor of TIME Magazine’s European edition and author of The Death of French Culture and How Obama Lost America.