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The Cervantes Observatory presents a new report

The Sephardic communities in the United States, in serious threat


Cambridge, MA. September 18, 2014. The new release of the Informes del Observatorio/Observatory Reports of the Cervantes Institute at Harvard University examines the current threat around the Sephardic, or Judeo-Spanish, communities of the United States. Andres Enrique Arias, PhD in Linguistics and expert in History of the Spanish Language in the Sephardic communities of California, wrote a detailed study in which he elaborated on the characteristics of the Judeo-Spanish language spoken in the United States, and he also cautioned on the potential future disappearance of this language variety.

After a brief review of the history of the arrival and settlement of the Sephardim to the United States, Enrique Arias examined the results of their work in the Sephardic communities of Los Angeles during 1994 and 2000. Testimonies, analyses of songs, and other items are collected in the documentary film Once Upon a Time at 55th and Hoover, which reflects the reality of a community and of a language that are at serious risk of extinction in North America. Despite the efforts to recover it, there are no community spaces in which this dialect is part of everyday use, as there are no new generations of children who learn Judeo-Spanish as their first language.

The Judeo-Spanish or Spanish Sephardic, also known as Ladino, evolved greatly over the years. It retains some features of medieval Spanish, while incorporating American Spanish words, becoming a more evolved dialect in some ways than the Spanish peninsular itself. Even today, it is practiced in communities in the United States, Israel and Turkey. However, the report highlights the almost irreversible decline of the language in the United States.

This research joins the periodical Informes del Observatorio/Observatory Reports. These reports are published monthly on the Cervantes Observatory website, which is the main communication tool for different academic and research activities of the Cervantes Institute at Harvard University. These reports aim to collect articles, studies, reviews and other texts related to the Spanish language and Hispanic cultures of the United States from different points of view, materials and epistemologies. 

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