NEW YORK – Spain’s Queen Sofia on Wednesday witnessed the rebirth of New York’s Bronx borough, where she visited a middle school that has a widely recognized bilingual program in English and Spanish.
The queen also presided at the signing of an agreement between the Spanish Education Ministry and two other schools that are joining the International Spanish Academy initiative.
Sofia spoke with the students at M.S. 223 The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology about the scholastic progress and their command of English and Spanish.
The queen asked the students where they were from and, indeed, many of them came from Latin American countries or had been born in New York to Latino immigrants, while others were “Anglo” or African-Americans and had had to learn Spanish for this bilingual program.
To one girl who did not know Spanish until she came to M.S. 223, the Greek-born Sofia admitted that she didn’t know a word of Spanish before she wed King Juan Carlos.
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. noted that he attended M.S. 223 in the mid-1980s, when the Bronx was going through its worst period of economic depression and increased crime.
Now resurgent, the Bronx is the only New York borough with a Latino majority.
Diaz emphasized that the cooperation of schools with the Spanish Education Ministry “is important because it eliminates the negative stereotypes” that existed before bilingual education in New York.
“When I was a student, everyone said that I had to speak only in English,” he added.
“Today we understand that the world has changed. Today Her Majesty is here to say that Spanish is a beautiful language,” Diaz said.
The M.S. 223 students were very excited by the royal visit.
“It’s an experience that I will not forget,” 14-year-old Karen Gil told Efe.