Pan-Hispanic Identity and the Royal Spanish Academy’s Transatlantic Authority

Join CLS at 4pm, Friday November 4th in Hamilton 709, for a talk by Jose del Valle, Professor of Hispanic Linguistics at the CUNY Graduate Center, about “Pan-Hispanic identity and the Royal Spanish Academy’s Transatlantic Authority: A Declaration of Linguistic Independence at the 1951 Conference of Language Academies”. Refreshments will be provided. A detailed abstract follows:

This project examines the Royal Spanish Academy’s efforts in recent history to build a post-colonial pan-Hispanic identity that serves Spain’s geopolitical interests. The Academy was created in order to preserve the purity of the language in Spain and the territories of the Spanish Empire. Once Spain’s American colonies became independent (in the early nineteenth century), the Academy’s status in the new nations – and therefore its ability to retain authority and control the language’s symbolic power – was questioned and Latin American declarations of linguistic independence proliferated. The RAE’s efforts to retain control through the creation of associated language academies in Latin America after 1870 were mostly unsuccessful: a strong perception remained that the Spaniards were unwilling to share linguistic power. However, in 1950, Mexican president Miguel Alemán invited the RAE and all associated Academies to meet in Mexico and coordinate efforts. The conference took place in April 1951; all attended but the Spaniards. On the first day, incensed by this rejection, a member of the Mexican delegation forcefully argued for linguistic independence: subordination to the RAE should end and a truly democratic association of Academies based on the equal status of all should be created. Surprisingly, not only was his proposal soundly defeated, but Spain’s interests were served by an agreement to create an association of academies of the Spanish Language in which the RAE would retain ultimate authority in matters of language. In this paper, I describe the particulars of this episode and analyze it in the context provided by the tense post-colonial relationship between Spain and its former colonies: Spain’s efforts to remain a privileged interlocutor for – if not to retain ascendancy over – its former colonies and the ambivalence of Latin American nations towards Spain in their own nation-building processes.

And join us afterwards for dinner at Symposium restaurant (544 West 113th Street) at 6:30. RSVP to or here


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