CULTURE

Greek-Spanish ties celebrated

Greeks have a soft spot for all things Spanish. They admire the Spanish like a distant cousin who is successful. Even before Spain became a tourist destination for Greeks, there was much that linked the two countries. Thousands of Greeks learn Spanish as a third language after English and French, and the Cervantes Institute in Athens is as popular for the standard of education it provides as it is for the quality of the cultural events it hosts. Spanish is the first language of some 329 to 400 million people worldwide and June 19 was Spanish Language Day. The Cervantes Institute celebrated the event at its new premises on Mitropoleos Street in downtown Athens and Spanish Ambassador Miguel Fuertes Suarez spoke at the celebration about relations between Greece and Spain as well as his country’s cultural foreign policy. «I’ve been in Greece for a year and a half now but felt at home from the very first day,» said the Spanish ambassador. «I’m trying to learn Greek and I can say some words with the proper accent, giving the impression that I speak Greek well. I have one lesson a week and can manage an everyday conversation, especially when it’s related to Greece’s wonderful cuisine. I truly admire the knack Greeks have for learning foreign languages.» Suarez explains his country’s use of Spanish as a foreign policy tool. «It was a political decision with many and far-reaching financial dimensions. In many countries, such as the USA or Brazil, a large part of the population speaks Spanish so anything linked to language, from the mass media to music, is immediately identifiable by millions of people. The good thing is that this was a long-term plan that was firmly implemented. At the same time, it was not limited exclusively to language. We invested in tourism, music and culture with particular emphasis on architecture. The Cervantes Institute is a beautiful and functional building that reflects these values. The image of a country or a culture is not just its language but a general aesthetic incorporating many things.»