With this new presence, the Instituto Cervantes aims to reinforce the prestige of the Spanish language and the pride of Spanish speakers in their culture. The director of the Institute, Luis García Montero, will open the new extension, accompanied by the Spanish ambassador to the United States, Santiago Cabanas, and the consul general in Houston, Julia Olmo. The Cervantes will be located in facilities provided free of charge by the University of Southwest, with which it will be able to share other premises for cultural activities.
Settling in the US city with the highest percentage of Spanish speakers (83%, according to the 2019 census), where construction began on the wall that separates it from Mexico, responds to a primary objective: that the large Hispanic population knows the richness of the culture in Spanish and feels proud of its language and its roots.
The Institute is thus making progress in its work to ensure that Spanish is no longer considered a "second" language in the United States, diplomatically combating "English first". A claim that is not limited to the state of Texas, but extends to California, New Mexico and Florida, all of them states where Spanish is part of the daily life of their inhabitants.
In El Paso -the second busiest border city in the world, located opposite Mexico's Ciudad Juárez, separated by the Rio Grande River- the Instituto Cervantes will offer general Spanish courses from September onwards, in which the cultural component will be of great importance, and which will focus on the Chicano and Spanish heritage, often unknown to second and third generation Hispanics. El Paso is a particularly significant place for the institution in its aim to make Spanish a language of culture as well as of science.
To this end, it is preparing programmes such as Pride and Heritage, aimed at teenagers who can learn about their roots thanks to the Spanish reading club, workshops on creative writing, talks on Chicano literature and information on the language inherited from their Hispanic predecessors. In addition to the general courses, there will be other specific courses for medical students and professionals (Southwest University has Medicine and Nursing among its star degrees), as future healthcare professionals must prepare themselves to treat patients who barely speak English.
Before inaugurating the El Paso extension, whose opening was approved by the Institute's Board of Directors on 3 March, Luis García Montero will also visit the Cervantes de Albuquerque (the most populous city in the state of New Mexico), to which it will be attached. It will be the first time that a director of the Institute has visited this centre, which is directed by journalist and writer Silvia Grijalba.
On the other hand, García Montero travelled to Zacatecas (Mexico) last Friday to take part in the events organised by the Mexican government to mark the centenary of the death of the Mexican poet Ramón López Velarde.
Submitted by José Antonio Sierra, Hispanismo advisor