Did you know that more than 360 million people speak Spanish and they are scattered among a number of Spanish speaking countries. If you assume that Spain makes up 48 million of the 360 million, that leaves a massive 312 million, which in fact makes Spanish the 2nd most natively spoken language in the world (after Mandarin Chinese). Maybe it’s not so surprising when we remember that Spain conquered the vast South American continent, but that isn’t where all the Spanish speaking countries are found. Let’s take a look at a few.
The Taínos, Ciboneys, and the Guanajatabeyes were tribes that lived and farmed on the island now known as Cuba. In 1495, the island was claimed by Spain after Christopher Columbus had discovered it in 1492 and Cuba became one of the first Spanish speaking countries outside of Europe. The Spaniards were harsh rulers and most of the indigenous tribe populations died from various diseases after numbers of slaves were brought to Cuba. The Tainos tribe slept in a type of hammock, which was later introduced to the world by the Spanish.
2. Ceuta and Melilla
Ceuta and Melilla are autonomous cities of Spain that are located on the north coast of Africa, and prior to Spain joining the European Union were “Free Ports.” Ceuta has a western border with Morocco and a location bordering on the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. These Spanish-speaking cities are part of negotiations called for by Morocco that also include a number of nearby Mediterranean islands and enclaves. The majority of the population from the Spanish mainland considers the cities part of Spain.
Ecuador, a name gained from its geographical position, is small and mountainous and one of the South American countries with Spanish as an official language. Approximately 80% of the population uses Spanish as their first and official language, but indigenous languages are protected by the constitution. The study of Spanish is popular in Ecuador due to it offering study costs amongst the lowest in South America and the Spanish spoken is typical of Latin American tongues.
4. Equatorial Guinea
Outside Latin America, the city of Miami has the highest number of Spanish speakers. This is followed by Equatorial Guinea, one of the Spanish speaking countries in Africa that has retained it as the official language. Formerly known as Spanish Guinea, the inherent language was the result of colonization by Spain, which could be an influence in most of the population preferring to speak one of the indigenous languages.
During the Spanish colonization of the Americas, Guatemala and the Maya became another Spanish speaking country. From 1511, various expeditions from Spain landed in locations on the Yucatán coastline, but the conquest of the Maya was not easy and became an arduous campaign. The resistance to integration within the Spanish Empire was so strong that it took Spain almost two centuries to achieve it.
Bordered by Guatemala to the west and El Salvador to the southwest is Honduras. To identify it from British Honduras or Belize, it was sometimes referred to as Spanish Honduras. This country has a number of original indigenous cultures, primarily the Maya. However, when Spain conquered Honduras during the 16th century, it became another of the Spanish speaking countries of Latin America. Following independence in 1821 and the end of Spanish rule, it has been a republic.
7. Puerto Rico
Between the 15th and 18th centuries, the majority of citizens in Puerto Rico originated from Andalusia. Therefore, part of the foundation for this Spanish speaking country is Andalusia Spanish. However, contributing to this form of the language was Spanish as spoken in the Canary Islands. These islanders were attracted to Puerto Rico and the Americas by the potential for a better life and were the main source of immigration during the nineteenth century. The accents of these original languages are similar, but later other immigrants from all over Europe settled in Puerto Rico, adding words from their own languages that are influences in this Spanish speaking country today.
8. Western Sahara
By the 16th century, the Arab Saadi Dynasty had conquered the Songhai Empire that had its foundations on the Niger River. The Western Sahara became one of the African countries with Spanish as an official language when Spain claimed protectorate rights of the coast from Cape Bojador to Cape Blanc that was then extended. Spain combined the separated areas and formed the Province of Spanish Sahara in 1958. Following international pressure by America, France and Great Britain, Spain relinquished Western Sahara in November 1975. Most of the northern part of Western Sahara was effectively annexed by Morocco in 1976, with the remainder in 1979. The ‘ownership’ and status of Western Sahara is still disputed.
There are other Spanish speaking countries not in this list such as Mexico, which has ~110 million Spanish speakers, and the USA where although Spanish is not an official language, an estimated 44 million speak it. Can you speak Spanish as a second language or would you consider learning it now you know how widespread it is?