By: Alba Moreno-Luque, journalist, she is currently working in the Department of Communications at Instituto Cervantes of Albuquerque.
Stepping into the “land of enchantment” means going deep into a world where the Hispanic culture mixes with the Anglo; where Spanish combines and even fuses with English. Welcome to New Mexico.
Welcome to Instituto Cervantes of Albuquerque: an institution that teaches a universal Spanish.
Instituto Cervantes is a nonprofit organization founded by the Spanish government in 1991 to promote the teaching, use and study of the Spanish language and to contribute to the advancement of Spanish, Hispanic and Latin American cultures throughout the world.
With over 80,000 students, Instituto Cervantes is the largest institution in the world dedicated to teaching Spanish. In Albuquerque its aim is to “create more opportunities for dialogue and a better understanding between the whole Hispanic world and the United States”, stated Executive Director, Ignacio Olmos.
For the last ten years, Instituto Cervantes of Albuquerque is highly regarded as a leader in teaching a language that, after decades of subjugation, “is returning to its rightful place”, said Administrative Director, Erin Fugate. Furthermore, there seems to be a movement to improve the social status of the Spanish language.
On Hispanic Heritage Day, October 12, Instituto Cervantes of Albuquerque presented its new Executive Committee, consisting of local leaders from the New Mexican cultural community. Board President, Thomas Chavez, reiterated in his speech the meaningful importance Instituto Cervantes has in New Mexico.
“Because of its rich history and Hispanic roots, New Mexico is a natural place to have an institution dedicated to promoting our culture”, said Chavez.
Ambassador Ed Romero, Honorary Consul Fred Mondragón and journalist Carla Aragón are among the members of the first ever Advisory Board of Instituto Cervantes who will work together in order to achieve organizational objectives for the Albuquerque center. The first challenge, however, is “to demonstrate the relevance of having an Instituto Cervantes in this New Mexican community,” concluded Chavez.
Hispanic Heritage Day was topped off with the performance by the Spanish musical group Mestisay. October 12 will be remembered at the Instituto Cervantes of Albuquerque for recognizing the values of the rich and interesting Hispanic community.
The addition of Carlos Soler as Academic Director of Instituto Cervantes of Albuquerque means the development of new and innovative teaching methods that aim to help students become well rounded speakers.
One of the main purposes of this new period is to transform Instituto Cervantes of Albuquerque into a point of reference in terms of teacher training. “Not only that, though”, points out Soler. “We aim to develop a Spanish teaching program that addresses what we call the heritage speaker, people with Hispanic roots that have forgotten or have never had the chance to learn Spanish in all its complexity”, explained the Academic Director.
According to 2011 Census data, New Mexico’s Hispanic population grew 24.6 percent from 2000 to 2010. For the first time in the state’s history, the Hispanic numbers surpassed those of Anglos and, therefore, Hispanics now represent 46.3 percent of New Mexico’s population. In this sense, New Mexico has become the birth place of potential Spanish-speakers.
All classes are divided into modules with a practical purpose: providing skills and abilities to the students that enable them to find their own way in Spanish. “Since the beginning of each class, I encourage students to play an active role. We want them to be the protagonists of each and every activity in order to help them participate and interact”, explained professor Mary Salinas, who has more than ten years of teaching experience at Instituto Cervantes of Albuquerque. Salinas speaks of “motivated” students as “people that truly enjoy learning Spanish”. This pragmatic method of teaching is one that addresses the needs of each individual student.