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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 July 2007, 06:48 GMT 07:48 UK
BBC team makes US Spanish journey
By Jose Baig
Hispanic affairs correspondent, BBC Mundo

This Saturday, I am setting off on a two-week long trip across the United States with a simple goal in mind: to speak only Spanish during the journey.

Jose Baig (left) and Carlos Ceresole (right)
Jose and Carlos are aiming to meet as many people as possible

I am not trying to achieve or break any record. I just want to see what it is like to cross the country without uttering a word of English.

I am travelling with Carlos Ceresole, a video producer for the Spanish American section of the BBC.

Our trip will take us from San Agustin, Florida, to Los Angeles, California. We will visit a total of eight states and 12 cities along the way.

The name of the project is "¿Hablas español?" (Do you speak Spanish?), and that is the question we will be asking everyone we meet.

In fact, that is the question I have asked everyone I have contacted while planning this trip. I must admit, though, that the other day I was talking to an immigration specialist in Tallahassee, Florida, and only realised she spoke Spanish 15 minutes into the conversation.

That was an interesting reminder of the purpose of this project and it also showed me that there are a lot more Spanish speakers in the US than one tends to think. It's just a matter of asking: "Do you speak Spanish?"

Immigration

Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in the United States. According to government figures, there are now some 42 million Hispanics in the US, some 14.5% of the population.

Pro-immigration march in Manhattan in March 2007
Immigration is set to be a key issue in 2008 presidential vote

After English, Spanish is the most widely spoken language and is studied by increasing numbers of non-native speakers.

Experts believe that even if no one else from Latin America were to emigrate to the US in the coming years, the Hispanic population would continue to grow at a faster rate than other minorities.

This includes African-Americans who constitute 12% of the population.

But all the indications are that the US will continue to attract many Latin Americans, both legally and illegally.

Immigration, already a controversial and divisive issue in the country, is set to be one of the hot topics in next year's presidential election.

We are excited about this project, but are not too sure what to expect. Many people have written to us inviting us into their homes or businesses and saying that they want to meet us.

We are looking forward to that and we'll try to meet as many people as possible. But will everyone be so welcoming when we ask them "¿Hablas español?"

Criticism

In Nogales, Arizona, we want to tackle the issue of cross-border crossings. We would like to talk to people who have done it and to those who try to stop them.

The trip will finish in Los Angeles, where we expect to hold a debate on the impact of Spanish in American society.

Some of our readers have criticised the project saying that millions of people already live and travel across the US speaking only Spanish, and that they do so with very little or no money.

The idea of this trip is to talk to those people and to see how they do it.

I'll be writing a daily blog as well as reporting on BBC Mundo Hoy, the BBC's flagship radio programme in Spanish.

You can also view pictures of the journey in Flickr and if you want to contact us you can use this email address: bbcmundohispano@gmail.com

You can leave a message using Skype with the account bbcmundohispano or join the group "¿Hablas español y vives en EE.UU.?" on Facebook.

Read more about the tools we are using here

So come join us on this journey and let us ask everyone we meet: "¿Hablas español?"

map




SEE ALSO
New US pastures lure immigrants
26 Jun 06 |  Americas
Minorities rise in most US states
15 Aug 06 |  Americas
Viewpoints: US illegal immigration
23 May 06 |  Americas
Q&A: US immigration debate
28 Jun 07 |  Americas

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