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  HOME | Caribbean

Proposal to Make Spanish Puerto Rico’s First Language

SAN JUAN – A senator from Puerto Rico’s governing party on Thursday launched a proposal to make Spanish the island’s official language and relegate English to second position in the U.S. commonwealth.

Currently, both languages are officially co-equal, although Spanish is used the most in Spain’s former colony. The pro-statehood sector of the island’s population generally supports the predominant use of English and independence-minded members of the Puerto Rican public generally prefer Spanish.

The senator making the proposal is Antonio Fas Alzamora, with the governing PPD, which wants Puerto Rico to remain a U.S. commonwealth.

The lawmaker’s initiative proposes passing a law establishing Spanish as the island’s No. 1 language and making its use obligatory in executive, legislative and judicial areas, thus overturning Law 1-1993, which made the two languages co-equal in public forums.

That law was supported by then-Gov. Pedro Rossello, of the pro-statehood PNP.

“By establishing Spanish as the first official language, we will strengthen our cultural identity and validate the reality that more than 80 percent of Puerto Ricans do not understand or speak English,” Fas Alzamora argued upon announcing his initiative in the Senate.

He said that he is not seeking to eliminate the teaching of English in the schools.

Current legislation ignores the “undeniable reality” that a great majority of Puerto Ricans do not understand or speak English, the senator said.

“Since the U.S. invasion of our country (in 1898), different initiatives have been put into place aimed at the assimilation of the Puerto Rican people,” Fas Alzamora said after noting that the Puerto Rican “reality ... in cultural, historic, geographic and judicial terms is very different from that of our U.S. fellow citizens.”

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