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Blecua, the new Director of the Royal Spanish Academy: America is the future of the Spanish language

The philologist José Manuel Blecua, elected today as the director of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) with a majority vote, has faith in sharing his new responsibility with the American Academies of the Spanish Language, to strengthen unity and develop all ongoing projects.

"America is the future of the Spanish language, the present and the past", Blecua told the media, minutes after having been elected as successor to Víctor García de la Concha, who will officially leave his role as the director of the RAE on 13th January 2011.

Blecua (Zaragoza, 1939), a renowned expert in Phonetics and Phonology and the coordinator of the volume of the new Academic Grammar dedicated to these two disciplines, beat Darío Villanueva by 18 votes. Villanueva was the other academic in line to be Director, after the vote which took place the week before had seen neither achieve the absolute majority that was required.

Of the 41 positions that are currently filled within the RAE, the 32 academics who had the right to participate took part in the voting this afternoon (attendance at 12 sessions during the year being required in order to vote).. According to Víctor García de la Concha, who appeared to be elated when conveying the results, two academics (Mario Vargas Llosa and José Luis Sampedro) voted by mail.

"He has been a very effective secretary and was familiar with the work of the Academy. Now he has a post which brings greater responsibility with it", said García de la Concha, who then went on to talk about the "feel of the Academy"

"We academics have all elected him. That is the tradition of the Academy; when we democratically choose to elect a particular person, all the academics automatically form a core unit with him to bring the Academy’s projects to fruition", he said.

Blecua described the "immense honour" he felt at having worked for so many years with García de la Concha, who has done "a magnificent job" at the helm of the RAE, and said he was confident that his new responsibilities would be shared with the Governing Board, the other academics and the American Academies.

The new director, who has dedicated a large part of his life to teaching, has experience in management; on top of his three years as secretary of the RAE, he was also vice-rector of the Autonomous University of Barcelona "during difficult times", according to García de la Concha.

Blecua was also academic director of the Cervantes Institute and responsible fo r the events organised to celebrate the 4th Centenary of the publication of ‘El Quijote’.

"He shares the same excitement that we have all felt whilst working towards the unity of the Spanish language in recent years, and now he is to lead the RAE and the Association of Academies of the Language (normally the director of the RAE also leads this) along the same lines that we have worked throughout that time, and which have involved everyone’s contributions", García de la Concha pointed out.

Blecua also had words of praise for former directors of the Academy, including Fernando Lázaro Carreter, Manuel Alvar and Rafel Lapesa, his mentor. "That memory encourages me greatly because I believe I have clear principles to follow."

Blecua stated that the RAE would continue to collaborate closely with the American Academies, as has occurred during the 12 years that García de la Concha has been director, and said he was confident about "further developing the projects" carried out in collaboration with these institutions"" .

"I have brilliant memories of America", assured Blecua, who was a lecturer at the Colegio de México  from 1986 to 1987.

The new director referred to the objectives that he has planned for the RAE, including the new edition of the Dictionary planned for 2013, the year in which the Academy will celebrate its Tricentenary. "We need to plan ahead in order to organise a fitting celebration , even if it is an austere one  owing to the recession". 

He also intends to dedicate "some effort" to the archives, the Academy’s libraries and staff training, because linguistics and technology "require constant updating".

"Since it was established, the Academy has served society, and I would like to continue and strengthen this public service", Blecua explained.

García de la Concha’s successor will continue to promote the introduction of new technologies within the RAE and, to this end, he announced that "a large-scale portal for the Spanish language is already at a very advanced stage of development". This portal will provide access to both the works of the Spanish Academy and those of the other Academies.

"It will be a useful portal for society and also for researchers", he assured. EFE