Kia ora koutou. Hola. Bienvenido. Welcome.
I specifically acknowledge: Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Dr Matthew O’Meager; Mr Craig Nicholson; Georgia Glory and Juan Lara.
As you can see, I have a particular incentive to learn Spanish myself. My daughter-in-law Trish is from Chile, and my mokos speak Spanish, as well as te reo Māori and English.
I so envy their ability to move so effortlessly between those three languages. In doing so, they are also gaining insights into how different cultures see the world.
As the great Italian film director Frederico Fellini once said: “A different language is a different vision of life”.
Such understanding is invaluable in our highly diverse communities – and in our inter-connected world.
As a former academic at three of the universities involved in the Latin American CAPE, I am delighted to have this opportunity to support its work – and to host everyone here tonight for this launch of the second Aotearoa Spanish Language Week.
It is both a courtesy and a privilege to communicate with others in their language – and I wish I was able to extend that courtesy more fully to the Spanish speakers who are with us tonight.
For New Zealanders, the Pacific Ocean is not a barrier. We see it as connecting the peoples of the Pacific to each other.
The ancient ancestors of iwi Māori came from Asia. Aotearoa New New Zealand is the final destination of a great diaspora that spread from Taiwan, out across the Pacific, over several thousand years.
And at some point in that extraordinary journey, Polynesian people made contact with indigenous peoples in South America. Kumara are tangible evidence of that contact.
Polynesians not only learned to cultivate a South American sweet potato: the name for it also became part of our indigenous languages.
Tonight, we celebrate our links with our Latin American neighbours across the Pacific Ocean – ancient and modern.
We look forward to further developing those connections – whether they be diplomatic, economic, educational or cultural – and we will work together to create a more sustainable future for our peoples.
We acknowledge the former refugees, and migrants from across Latin America and other Spanish-speaking nations who have made their home in Aotearoa – and the many contributions they have made to our communities.
And we look to the future, when the language skills my mokos are acquiring will be increasingly in demand by employers.
The key to developing relationships is understanding, and language is the portal to that understanding.
Tonight, we celebrate Español, the beautiful melodious language of many millions of people who live in Latin America.
To those of you here tonight who are teaching or learning Spanish, congratulations. You are helping New Zealanders to become proficient speakers of the fourth most spoken language in the world, you are expanding their horizons, and enabling us to better connect with our neighbours and understand each other.
I now invite Craig Nicholson to tell us all more about the work of the Latin American CAPE and Aotearoa Spanish Language Week.