Reporter Gonzalo Aburto of El Diario La Prensa profiles Instituto Cervantes, a non-profit with branches in 20 countries founded by the Spanish government in 1991. The organization offers Spanish-language courses and cultural activities in an effort to promote “Spanish and Hispanic-American culture.” The article is translated from Spanish below.
Ever since Javier Rioyo became the director of the local Instituto Cervantes one year ago, he has assumed the responsibility of moving the institution toward new horizons. In an interview, Rioyo said, “We want to bring the Instituto Cervantes out into the streets, outside of Manhattan. We want to offer our activities to other parts of the city.”
The Instituto Cervantes has more than 20 branches around the world. The organization’s mission is to “promote the Spanish language and Spanish and Hispanic-American culture.”
Rioyo, who is a journalist, a screenwriter, and a film director from Madrid, has taken on the challenge of expanding the center’s activities that run year-round.
“New York is like Madrid, the city where I come from. All of Spain comes together in Madrid, which has people of all nationalities. It’s another version of New York,” said Rioyo, who produced the 1996 documentary “Storm the Skies” (“Asaltar los Cielos”).
The Instituto Cervantes is the place where all Hispanic cultures converge. Program offerings include Spanish classes, as well as art exhibitions, conferences, lectures, and much more.
“Our common heritage is our language,” said Rioyo, emphasizing that this aspect defines his work.
Rioyo wants to promote activities that can take place throughout the Big Apple. “The main challenge is connecting with the real city. We must open our doors in order to reach more people.”
The Instituto Cervantes is a vibrant place that is full of things to do, such as DELE classes (Español como Lengua Extranjera, or Spanish as a Second Language). The institute collaborates with other organizations and the consulates of Latin American countries to provide cultural events such as conferences, book readings, concerts, and art exhibits. The center also works with the Spanish Cinema Now Festival at Lincoln Center and with the Flamenco Festival.
“New York is a very important Spanish-speaking city,” said Rioyo. “The reality is that the Spanish language in the United States is unstoppable. More than 52 million people speak it, and that number will continue to grow.”
Starting Sept. 29, the Instituto Cervantes will offer classes in Brooklyn and hopes to open other classrooms in various areas throughout the city, and even New Jersey.
“Today, the Instituto Cervantes is the place where today, singer and actress Sara Montiel could perform,” Rioyo said. “Tomorrow, there might be a musician, a philosopher, or a writer.”
Rioyo offered this newspaper a sneak peek into the center’s upcoming events, which will start in September and continue throughout the rest of the year.
“We’ll be presenting Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, holding a tribute to Pedro Armendáriz (father and son), and another to Juan Carlos Onetti,” he said. “We’ll have an event with Mexican journalist and writer Juan Villoro, a celebration of Nicanor Parra, the Chilean poet and winner of the Principe de Asturias award, a tribute to Guernica, and another for Jorge Luis Borges, whose widow María Kodama will be present.”
These events do not include the center’s daily activities.