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The Hispanic World: United By Spanish, Divided By Spanish

Latin Americans are proud to be part of a "brotherly" region united by its Hispanic heritage, until they suffer hearing each other's "Spanish."

The Hispanic World: United By Spanish, Divided By Spanish

A wall in Mexico

Ricardo Bada

BOGOTÁ — In February this year, my friend and fellow columnist Juan David Zuloaga expounded on the reality of a historic, cultural and linguistic community known as Spanish or Hispanic America. It includes Spain and the nations that were once a part of its American empire. I won't dismiss the idea, but I do question it.

Days ago, I read the most interesting article by Itziar Hernández Rodilla, in Vasos Comunicantes, a translators' journal, which began, "I read these words in Claudia Piñeiro'sCatedrales: "The way we name plants, flowers, fruits, while still using the same language reveals our origins as much as any tune, if not more. That is where we are from, the place where every word blooms or gives fruit."


Piñeiro, an Argentine novelist and screenwriter, then gives us a list of names for the bougainvillea plant: "Buganvilla in Spain; bugambilla in Mexico, Peru, Chile and Guatemala; papelillo in northern Peru; Napoleón in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama; trinitaria in Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Venezuela; veranera in Colombia and El Salvador." In Argentina they call them santarritas. Piñeiro shows we speak Spanish in several languages.


It's all semantics 

Looking back, I recall that in October 1984 I was asked to represent my radio station, Deutsche Welle (the German BBC, as it were), at a symposium of the International Center of Higher Studies in Journalism for Latin America in Quito, Ecuador. Attending were representatives from all the Latin American broadcasters as well as various European ones. On the last day, there was a conversation between broadcasting reps from both sides of the pond.

A female colleague from Mexico spoke first and, surprisingly, discarded the traditional courtesy of Mexicans: She said she thought the best programs from Europe were on Deutsche Welle. Only, she was bothered by all the Argentine accents! I replied that no Argentine worked at our desk — only two Uruguayans.

I was surprised to hear this after listening for a week to so much talk of brotherly ties and Hispano-American fraternity. It was empty rhetoric, I said; if Mexicans found the Argentine accent irksome, Chileans would say the same thing about the Peruvian accent and Colombians of the Puerto Rican accent. Nobody thought to contradict me. Apologies here to our favorite Argentine girl, the beloved comic book character Mafalda.

Every year when it's October 12 (Columbus Day), I quietly repeat, like a mantra: Latin America is haunted — by the ghost of its Spanish identity.

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Geopolitics

Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen

-Analysis-

HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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