Spanish & Portuguese in the United States

The Sirocco winds begin in the Sahara Desert and can be understood as a metaphor for movement across nations, cultures, and regions. They carry African sands, seeds, dust, and sediment as they regain force in their transit across the Mediterranean. Trade ships were also carried by these winds. Ideas and memory are carried by these winds. Even architectural forms have been designed around the Sirocco, from Sicily as far east as Iran.

These winds also serve as a metaphor for the movement of languages through migration and exchange.

Though reports vary, the United States has either the second or third largest Spanish-speaking population on the planet. If the Spanish-speaking population continues to increase (roughly a 13% increase in 2015), then the United States could be the largest Spanish-speaking country on Earth. The United States does not have an “official language” in its constituton, much to the dismay of those in favor of erecting walls and supporting “English-only” language policies.

In numerous Massachusetts and Rhode Island communities, Portuguese (Continental and Brazilian) and Portuguese-based Cape Verdean Criollo are the second and third most widely-spoken languages, ahead of Spanish. Check out this interactive map based on U.S. Census reports from 2011.

This language diversity, despite what could become an increasingly hostile culture for immigrants with a new president-elect, is something that must be celebrated. It is an enormous opportunity, particularly for the younger generations who come from monolingual English-speaking homes, to hear and live with and capture the joy of the sound of languages like Spanish and Portuguese. It is an unparalleled moment of language contact, from the big cities of the U.S. to even the smaller towns.

For this reason (and of course to share stories in written form that will inspire) one of the SiroccoBlue projects is to develop a trilingual series of short stories that explores language use and the joy of the sounds of Portuguese and Spanish for children. It will include other languages too: the language of dreams and memories, of music, and even animal companions who speak across Cambridgeport streets.

While the winds serve as a metaphor for the movement of language through migration, the Sirocco can also be seen as a symbol for exchange. Global education and exchange initiatives have always been at the core of the SiroccoBlue services. And soon, with the e-book project “Study Abroad: A Guide for Program Developers,” an all new website will be launched specifically for international education program development. More to come on that work soon!

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