With 488 million native speakers worldwide, Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, and it is an official language, either de facto (in practice) or de jure (by law) in 20 countries. Spanish is also an official language in Puerto Rico, Gibraltar, the United Nations, the African Union, and the Organization of American States.
North and Central America
In North and Central America, Spanish is an official language in the following countries:
- Costa Rica (de jure)
- El Salvador (de jure)
- Guatemala (de jure)
- Honduras (de jure)
- Mexico (de facto*)
- Nicaragua (de facto*)
- Panama (de jure)
In the Caribbean region, Spanish is an official language in the following countries:
- Cuba (de jure)
- Dominican Republic (de jure)
In South America, Spanish is an official language in the following countries:
- Argentina (de facto*)
- Bolivia (de jure)
- Chile (de facto*)
- Colombia (de jure)
- Ecuador (de jure)
- Paraguay (de jure)
- Peru (de jure)
- Uruguay (de facto*)
- Venezuela (de jure)
*The constitutions of Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Uruguay don't establish an official language.
In Spain, Spanish is an official language (de jure), along with Galician, Catalan, Basque, and Aranese.
Spanish is an official language (de jure) in Equatorial Guinea, where it acts as a lingua franca.
What about the Philippines? Spanish was an official language in the country until 1987, but this is no longer the case.
How did Spanish spread?
The first significant contact between the Spanish and the Americas occurred in the late fifteenth century, when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean. Although Columbus' voyages were initially motivated by his desire to find a new route to the Indies, they had a long-lasting effect on the spread of Spanish in the Americas. Columbus' expeditions, and the subsequent conquests of the Aztec and Incan Empires, led to the colonization of much of the Americas by the Spanish. This colonization brought with it a large influx of Spanish settlers, who established Spanish as the language of power and influence in the region.
In Africa, Portugal ceded possession of what is now Equatorial Guinea to Spain in 1778 as part of the Treaty of El Pardo, which ended the conflict between the two countries in the Río de la Plata region (modern Argentina and Uruguay).
The Spanish Academies
The Association of Spanish Language Academies, which was created in Mexico in the 1950s, is an international organization that works to promote the study, teaching, and use of Spanish language and its dialects around the world, and to ensure the correct use of the language and protect its heritage. It is formed of 24 Spanish academies. There is one in each of the 20 countries in which Spanish is an official language. The other four are in Puerto Rico, the United States, Israel, and the Philippines, respectively.