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Conferencia pronunciada por Su Alteza Real el Príncipe de Asturias en la Universidad de Harvard (inglés)

Boston, 21.06.2012


am well aware of the great privilege it is to speak at Harvard University, especially here at the Kennedy School of Government, where some of the world's most eminent thinkers and statesmen have been heard. Thank you for inviting us to be here today, and I indeed thank you all for your presence as well. Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate this great School, on its 75th anniversary, for the prestige it rightfully enjoys throughout the world.

As I was saying, I greatly appreciate your graceful gesture, especially when in fact you are allowing just a modest Georgetown University graduate to address such a prestigious forum. I guess this means that also us HOYAS have something to contribute, even here at Harvard!

This university has been committed to excellence, innovation and creativity since its foundation. The world admires such a legacy and values its continuity. I'm happy and proud to say that the Prince of Asturias Foundation is greatly inspired by those principles. And we are honoured to have a very close and fruitful relation with Harvard, promoting sciences, culture and humanities.

Well then; "Spain: An American Nation". That is what I'm here to talk to you about. I deliberately employ the term "American" in the sense that relates to the whole American continent, from the Canadian Arctic to Cape Horn, an area usually referred to in this country as "the Americas".

But before I continue, I think it might be relevant to mention that part of my institutional role and duty as Crown Prince is dedicated to Latin America: The Spanish Constitution reserves for the Crown -in the person of the King- a special role in representing our nation abroad and especially before the independent republics that are part of our historic community, and Latin America is a fundamental part of that community.

Over the years, I have regularly visited these countries, attending presidential inaugurations on the King's behalf, having the privilege to meet and engage with most of the region's leaders, and supporting or promoting both Spanish business interests and our efforts in development aid. So, I have tried to forge strong institutional and personal ties with Latin America and with the American continent as a whole, whose societies and institutions I deeply appreciate and identify with. Therefore, the subject of my talk here today is very close to my heart.

The notion that "Spain is an American nation" -meaning, that we have a substantial American dimension or identity- is not as bizarre as might appear at first sight. Indeed I believe it reflects reality in a way that has often been strangely overlooked.

We can find several reasons why: Obviously Spain has an undeniable European identity and historic role, particularly in the Mediterranean region; but also for a long time we may have not been proactive enough in expressing -or making visible- our inherent American dimension.

To get on with my attempt to explain Spain's American identity, I shall focus on five main areas -the historical, cultural, linguistic, geopolitical and economic dimensions-. I shall then underline the considerable extent to which, in my view, -the United States and Spain- can work together throughout the Americas for the benefit of all societies in this area, and for ourselves.

Allow me to begin with the historical dimension. We all know that Spaniards reached the New World in the late 15th century, making them the first Europeans to effectively put the Atlantic's western seaboard on the map. Similarly, the story has often been told of how, over the following century, Spain came to govern a vast area, starting in the Caribbean and spreading initially throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Central America and later on to South America.

However, people are generally far less aware of Spain's centuries-long presence in a large part of North America, firstly in the south and south-west of present-day United States. Apparently, this also caught the attention of J.F. Kennedy, who once said that "Unfortunately, too many Americans think that America was discovered in 1620 when the pilgrims came to my own State, and they forget the tremendous adventure of the 16th century and the early 17th century in the Southern and Southwest United States". He described it as a great lack among Americans not to know enough about the "whole Spanish influence, exploration and development" in those times.

But I would also like to remind you that the Spanish presence or settlement reached practically the entire territory of the United States that today lies to the west of the Mississippi. Similarly, the entire Pacific coast from California to Alaska, including present-day Canadian territories, were explored and incorporated into Spain's dominions just under 250 years ago. Furthermore, almost 500 years ago, in 1513, a Spanish expedition led by Ponce de León reached Florida, where a settlement was first established at Pensacola. St Augustine, founded in 1565 by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, is the oldest city in the United States... though only if we exclude San Juan on the island of Puerto Rico.

Indeed the first recorded celebration of Thanksgiving Day in what is the present-day United States took place at El Paso in 1598, when Juan de Oñate took possession of the area more than 20 years before the Mayflower's arrival on the East coast. And I could go on and on... but I´ll spare you from more examples of Spain's historical presence in almost three-quarters of what is today the United States, where in a large part we remained for more than 300 years.

Another key aspect of Spain's historic ties with this country and with its people, also frequently overlooked, is its involvement in the American Revolution. Spain made a decisive contribution to the cause of freedom by providing resources, weapons, funds and the extraordinary participation of a significant number of troops. I am sure that many of you have heard of Bernardo de Gálvez and the town named in his honour, Galveston. Gálvez's role in US history, together with his brave granaderos, has been increasingly recognized as fundamental to the cause of victory in the war of independence.

Let me just add one final reference to our common history. Exactly 200 years ago, in 1812, Spain's first constitution was proclaimed in Cádiz while still under siege by Napoleon's Army. It is the third most influential constitution in the world after the American and French ones. But what is most remarkable is that it was drafted by members of parliament who travelled all the way to that Andalusian city from most of the territories of what was then Spanish America, including New Mexico, and that it was also fully implemented in places such as Texas and California.

The Spanish constitution was thus the first of its kind to be transcontinental: it was enforced throughout Spain, South America, Central America and North America, in territories that are today part of the United States. Also in Puerto Rico, the Phillippines and other islands of the Pacific, which were all Spanish possessions from the 16th century up until 1898. No, I won't be mentioning the Spanish-American war, don't worry.

All these references, are simply intended to highlight Spain's long-standing presence throughout the Americas. This goes quite far in explaining not only why Spain should be thought of in terms of its American dimension, but also that this extends to practically the whole of the Americas, even though in the popular mind Spanish influence is still often limited to South and Central America and the Caribbean.

On the cultural front, Spain's presence in the Americas over the course of several hundred years gave rise to the emergence of life styles and value systems that are common to practically the entire continent. From governance to town planning, the administration of justice, the economy and education, the Spanish footprint can be seen in most of the hemisphere, and its vigour, depth and scope continue to surprise. Latin America?s very strong cultural identity, as is true of the entire Hispanic world, is expressed in the most varied forms -literature, music and the arts, for instance- and is one of the most vibrant examples of what I am trying to describe to you.

Spanish influence is also present in well-known features and stereotypes of popular US culture, such as cattle herding in the south-west; the rodeo and the mounted cowboy -Hollywood permitting- and so many others. Even the very dollar symbol ($), so closely identified with the US economy, was actually inspired by the currency of the Spanish territories at the time of US independence.

Speaking in Harvard, the oldest US University and one of the world's most prestigious, I cannot refrain from mentioning that Spain established the first universities in the Americas in the mid-16th century: Santo Tomás de Aquino in Santo Domingo, the Mayor in San Marcos, Peru, and the Pontificia in Mexico. These universities transferred to America the high cultural standards of Spain's ancient universities, such as that of Salamanca, founded in the early 13th century, where the foundations of what eventually became modern international law, the "Derecho de Gentes", were laid shortly after Spain's encounter with the New World.

But there is one key socio-cultural phenomenon that has marked and influenced the entire continent's identity what is known as "mestizaje", developed in the Americas during Spain´s presence. This mixing together of Europeans, Africans and the indigenous American peoples was accompanied by an unprecedented merging of religions and belief systems. Indeed never before in History had mankind experienced such a far-reaching melding process in a relatively brief period of time and over such a large extension of territory. What is more, this process affected every aspect of human identity, from the purely biological to the social, religious and cultural dimensions. So the "melting pot" and "salad bowl" models associated with the United States were already present, to varying degrees, in the territories ruled by the Spanish crown in North, Central and South America from the late 15th century onwards.

In discussing something as crucial (and sensitive) as the forging of collective national and multinational identities, I am of course aware of the existence of a lively academic and political debate as to whether Latin America constitutes a separate civilization in its own right, or whether it should be seen as one of the pillars of Western civilization. It is of course not for me to decide on this matter, and it is up to Latin Americans themselves to define their own identity as they see fit. Nevertheless, there is no doubt in my mind as to Spain's highly significant contribution to the Western dimension of the Latin American identity, however this is ultimately defined.

I will now turn my attention to the language dimension, undoubtedly the most significant cultural and human legacy of Spain's presence in the Americas, which is the third dimension I wanted to talk about.

With about 500 million speakers Spanish is currently the second most important world language, and it is also the mother tongue to the largest number of people in the world with the exception of Chinese, and ahead of English. Given that approximately 85% of the world?s Spanish speakers live in the Americas, and considering the number of countries where it is the official language, today Spanish is essentially an American language, much more so than a European one.

But Spanish is not just a very widely spoken language. It should also be seen and recognized as an invaluable instrument for some of the world?s most sophisticated and creative writers and thinkers, whatever their nationality. Indeed it is the combination of these quantitative and qualitative aspects that explain the growing prestige it currently enjoys throughout the world.

I would also like to stress the economic value of the Spanish language. In Spain alone, it is thought to be worth the equivalent of 15% of our GDP, and according to some studies, the fact that we share this language with over 20 other countries enables us to multiply the value of our bilateral commercial transactions with them by almost 200 per cent. Today, our audiovisual, publishing and visual arts industries jointly account for some 1 billion dollars in annual export revenues. Similarly, linguistic tourism is thought to contribute 584 million dollars to the Spanish economy every year (incidentally, Spain is currently the second most popular destination for US students on study-abroad programmes). Furthermore, cultural commercial activity associated with the Spanish language provides over half a million jobs in Spain alone, and much the same could be said of the rest of the Spanish speaking world. In short, the Spanish language constitutes an extremely valuable economic asset.

As you know far better than I do, Spanish has also become increasingly important in the United States. This is of course partly due to the growing importance of the Hispanic or Latino community, thanks to which the United States, with some 50 million Spanish speakers, ranks second amongst the Spanish-speaking nations of the world, after Mexico and before Spain itself. In addition, Spanish is also the "foreign" language for which there is greatest social demand in the US, though to be honest I find it hard to describe a language as "foreign" when it has been spoken here uninterruptedly for more than half a millenium. Whatever the case, its growing economic, social, cultural and even political importance in the US is today beyond any doubt (Look what is happening in political and presidential campaigns!!).

Spanish, of course, is not the only Iberian language spoken in the Americas. Portuguese, which is linguistically very similar, is the official language of Brazil, a vast country and a major global player. Spanish is also widely used there, in fact the Brazilian government decreed in 2005 that the teaching of Spanish should be made available (not compulsory) to all secondary-school students. It turns out that the Spanish and Portuguese languages together form the basis of a unique linguistic community of 700 million people who live in over 30 countries worldwide. This is undoubtedly one of our most highly-valued cultural assets, and it reinforces the notion of being an American nation.

Latin America?s historic, cultural and linguistic identities have been the cornerstone of Spain's American vocation and modern dedication. I often argue that a Spaniard who does not incorporate or acknowledge our "american dimension", and common heritage does not have complete understanding of his or her true identity.

At the political level, Spain's presence has taken a number of different forms, both bilateral and multilateral, depending on the geopolitical interests of the nations concerned.

Although it's not for me to say, it is generally acknowledged in both academic and political circles that the monarchy made a unique contribution to Spain's highly successful transition to democracy after the King's proclamation in November 1975. In the course of the transition process, Spanish political leaders and institutions acquired an expertise that was later greatly sought after in other nations. As a result, during the 1980s the Crown and many other Spanish institutions were able to play a constructive role in favouring the development of democratic systems of government in many Central and Southern American countries which had hitherto been living under dictatorial regimes. This partly explains why, to this very day, the Spanish monarchy remains deeply committed to the cause of democracy throughout Latin America.

In keeping with this, Spain has also provided ample evidence of its concern for the economic and social well-being of Latin American societies. A good example of this is the development aid we have transferred to the region over the years. During the past decade alone, Spain has contributed over 8 billion dollars in official development aid, which has been aimed at fighting poverty and inequality, the provision of basic social services and the strengthening of political institutions and the rule of law.

In Latin America today there is a broad consensus in favour of democratic systems of government, of socially inclusive market economies, and of the need to foster social participation based on a culture of tolerance. Today, this is a region full of promise where some of its most prosperous nations have become world economic leaders; and in which some of its more diplomatically active states have a growing say in world affairs thanks to their membership of the G-20. Spain is understandably proud and honoured to have contributed in some measure to Latin America's progress during these past decades.

The historic and cultural affinities that I mentioned earlier, combined with the interests and values shared by the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations of Europe and America -a group of countries that we generally describe as "Iberoamerican"- led to the creation of multilateral cooperation mechanisms from a very early stage.

During the past 20 years, the Iberoamerican Summits, which regularly bring together the top political leadership of these countries, have allowed them to debate a broad array of matters of current interest worldwide, such as the impact of migrations on development, the future of our education systems, prospects for social inclusion, the transformation of the state and the challenges facing research and innovation. This year Spain will be holding the Iberoamerican Summit in the city of Cadiz to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Spain's first constitution which, as I mentioned earlier, was truly transcontinental in scope. At the Summit, leaders will be discussing the major global economic challenges that we face today.

Over the course of the past few decades, with a very strong Spanish drive, the development of the so-called Iberoamerican Community of Nations has given rise to a new multilateral institutional framework whose scope and influence is magnified by the hundreds of private, public and semi-public initiatives that connect our civil societies at every conceivable level.

Let me finally turn to the economic dimension of Spain's identity as an American nation, which will allow us to better understand how our interests have become very closely intertwined with those of the Americas during the past few decades, and with Latin America in particular.

I mentioned earlier that Latin America had made enormous political strides in recent decades, and the same is true of its economies. The region's population and GDP both represent approximately 8% of the world's total. Latin America is blessed with outstanding natural resources, and its raw materials, which account for 12% of its overall wealth, amount to 5% of total global output. Furthermore, Latin America complements other emerging regions of the world and it holds a very considerable strategic value and potential for growth.

What I wish to emphasize, however, is the progress Latin America has made in improving its citizens' standards of living and welfare: poverty and social inequalities, though still present, have been significantly reduced, and the middle classes have expanded, providing a cushion against adverse external macroeconomic conditions. By and large, this has been achieved without undermining democracy or the rule of law; and the region has thus become increasingly dynamic, and has also coped well with the global financial crisis and its aftermath in 2008-2009, as well as with the current global economic slowdown.

Experts have attributed this economic resilience to the region's sound economic fundamentals and to the counter-cyclical monetary and fiscal policies implemented in response to external shocks. Furthermore, throughout this period Latin American countries have continued to foster the region's commercial and economic integration, a goal to which Spain has always given its full support.

Spanish firms started to get heavily involved in Latin America during the 1990s, providing their capital, technology, managerial know-how and international experience, and they did so mainly in the fields of finance, energy, infrastructure and telecommunications, all of which are crucial to the region's economic development and social cohesion.

During the past two decades, around 50% of European foreign investment in the region originated in Spain. Between 1997 and 2012, Spanish direct investment in Latin America amounted to 158 billion US dollars (of which 126 billion went to Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile). As a result, Spain has intermittently overtaken the US as the largest investor in the region. It goes without saying that these investments have been particularly productive in those Latin American countries with the highest levels of legal certainty and institutional stability.

In short, Spanish companies in all sectors decided to invest in Latin America at a time when it was not at all evident that the region?s economy would take off. Consequently, the positions these companies consolidated during that period later served to optimize both their results and their presence once growth arrived in the second half of the past decade. The settlement of Spanish companies in Latin America was therefore very important to boost and diversify the Spanish economy while helping to bring progress to the Latin American economies. Today, in the midst of a particularly harsh economic crisis, Latin America is of vital importance to the Spanish economy and for its efforts to overcome these present difficulties.

In the United States, Spain's economic projection has also grown in recent times. It has become increasingly visible with regards to investments, thanks to companies in a wide range of sectors, from construction, auto-manufacturing and fashion to emerging industries like biotechnology, renewable energy and high value-added services.

The balance of trade between our two countries shows a clear deficit for Spain, while the US is currently the sixth largest buyer of Spanish exports, which are generally, in any case, on the rise. Today the United States is the second-largest investor in Spain, while Spanish investment flows to this country have been growing fast over the past few years. Spanish investments in the US generate around 70,000 jobs here while US investments in Spain account for around 300.000. Our two countries thus enjoy extremely close economic and trade relations. But I believe we must still make every effort to further strengthen them in the future.

Undoubtedly, Spain's economic presence across the entire American continent reinforces our country's position as a key player in this hemisphere. So I think we can safely argue that in the economic field, Spain is also a very American nation.

This concludes the five dimensions or pillars I have presented to sustain that "Spain is an American Nation". I could now leave you to decide whether I have adequately put across my belief.

However, let me add that most of what I have argued about Spain in the Americas has a mirror? or feedback? effect within our own Country, by which we have incorporated into our culture the powerful influences and deep feelings which only bring us even closer to our brothers and sisters from across the Atlantic Ocean.

Therefore, and considering the amount of interests Spain and the US share in the whole continent, we ought to feel encouraged to multiply the opportunities for fruitful co-operation in a large number of fields. This triangular co-operation between the US, Spain and Latin America presents an enormous potential for the future. These days, when profound changes shake politics and economics in a global environment, we can not neglect the value of strong mutual support among Nations who share a wide array of democratic and economic principles. I am well aware this has been discussed in many academic and business forums and I trust that here and many other Universities in our countries, young academics and entrepreneurs will be able to shore up specific ways to make this thriving reality for our shared benefit and on the basis of our common hemispheric vocation.

Ultimately, I like to see Spain not just as a European, American and Mediterranean country, but rather as one with a truly universal reach. But this could be the topic of another lecture in its own right. For that reason, and as I have already implied in my talk, I would like to conclude by making the rather daring assertion, turning my initial comments on their head, that "yes" Spain IS indeed an American nation, but that, more importantly perhaps, the American hemisphere itself is and will remain profoundly Hispanic.

Thank you very much for your interest and your patience.

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