Felipe VI stressed today that language is “a common space shared by all” where “thought, values and society” are constructed, and recalled that many of these values advocated by the humanist Antonio Nebrija “are always valid”, such as the defense of freedom of thought and expression; while the grammarian himself continues to be, five centuries later, “an example of modernity, commitment and freedom”.
The events of the V Centenary of Antonio Nebrija officially began with the celebration of a grand gala at the Teatro Real. This cultural event, chaired by SS. MM. the kings of Spain, revolved entirely around the figure of Antonio de Nebrija, introducer of humanism in Spain and author of the first Castilian grammar.
The fifth centenary of Antonio de Nebrija will be celebrated throughout 2022, in an event unanimously promoted by the entire parliamentary arc. A commission created specifically for this task is responsible for organizing and promoting activities to disseminate the valuable contributions that this wise man made to Hispanic culture. In this Commission, chaired by the Antonio de Nebrija Foundation, 15 political and cultural institutions are integrated: the RAE, the National Library, the Cervantes Institute; the Ministries of Culture and Sports; Foreign Affairs, European Union and International Cooperation; and Treasury and Civil Service; seven municipalities and two universities.
In his first act after 12 days of isolation to recover from the coronavirus which forced his agenda to be paralyzed, His Majesty the King dedicated his first words to the victims of the pandemic and reiterated his admiration and gratitude to all of the scientific and health sector which is fighting the virus.
The king maintained that the 5th centenary of Nebrija and the activities planned therein will help us as a society to defend and spread, as he did, “the love of knowledge, the passion for science, unwavering fidelity to principles and respect by human beings beyond any difference, whether of language, origin, creed, race or orientation”.
The gala, hosted by Spanish television journalist Elena S. Sánchez, began with a minute’s silence for the victims of the sinking of the Villa de Pitanxo fishing boat in Newfoundland waters, for which on Monday, February 21 was declared a day of mourning. official.
In his speech, the Minister of Culture and Sports, Miquel Iceta, underlined the virtues of dialogue and understanding of Nebrija, and his vision of language, as an element that “eliminates barriers and generates community”.
“Whoever loves their language loves them all and it is also a Nebrija heritage to celebrate in this multilingual country,” added Iceta. “Language is, moreover, an economic good, a raw material which, unlike oil, wood or stone, is not exhausted with use, but increases as we use it, enriching us all and constituting the essential substrate of our society and our cultural industries”.
In addition to Iceta, the event also brought together the Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory, Félix Bolaños; the Minister of Universities, Joan Subirats; the former Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero; the director general of the Teatro Real, Ignacio García-Belenguer; the president of the Interadministrative Commission of the Centenary of Nebrija V and rector of the University of Nebrija, José Muñiz; and the president of the Antonio de Nebrija Foundation, Manuel Villa-Cellino.
A cultural heritage that can also be sung
The heritage and culture of Nebrija in Spanish were the common thread of the gala: they were in the speeches of the authorities, in the informative videos and in the words of the presenter, who told about the life and work of the Sevillian. But also in the exciting performances that, since the recovery of tradition or the renewal of musical language, have been united by the word in Spanish.
The musical closing was put by the singer-songwriter and composer Rozalén, awarded the National Current Music Award 2021 and accompanied by a sign interpreter. The artist, winner of a Goya, valued the gift of speech in a brief intervention. “Sometimes you can’t find the words and it’s the music that fills those gaps. Sometimes the word is in other forms”.
Before Rozalén, David Dorantes, an illustrious native of Lebrija and member of a dynasty of flamenco musicians, performed the Sintonía Elio Antonio de Nebrija, his own composition commissioned by the Lebrija Town Hall and offered free of charge to the Commission for the 5th Centenary.
Haze, urban musician, philologist, language and literature teacher at the San José de Coria del Río Secondary Education Institute, also participated. , in “the first rapper to take the stage at the Teatro Real”.
The composer and performer Eliseo Parra, researcher of folklore and Spanish musical tradition, interpreted two pieces from the 15th century as proof that the music that Nebrija was able to listen to is still alive.
Language, free software
In his speech, José Muñiz, president of the Interadministrative Commission for the V Centenary of Antonio de Nebrija and Rector of the University of Nebrija, said that this commemorative year will serve to give a strong impetus to studies on Spanish, “a language with great vitality and with enormous economic potential, it is not in vain that nearly 600 million people in the world speak it”. He also considered it a unique opportunity not only to deepen the knowledge of Nebrija, but also to promote reflection on the role that the humanities can play in the digital age. “We speak and communicate in our language naturally, simply by modulating the air we breathe, without having to download any application. Well thought out, it seems magical, we are connected by the wind, through free software, our language, which allows us to communicate, to express ideas and feelings, to imagine, to create, to project”.
For his part, Darío Villanueva, president of the board of directors of the University of Nebrija and member of the Royal Spanish Academy, hoped that in the V centenary of Nebrija it would be definitively recognized that, with its Castilian grammar of 1492, Elio Antonio de Nebrija “was not the language ideologue of the Empire, but the patriarch of the language empire in the New World”.
The figure of Nebrija
Antonio de Nebrija (1441-1522) was, chronologically, the first Hispanic humanist. Famous for his Castilian Grammar (1492), the first grammar of a modern European language, he was the introducer of Italian Renaissance humanism to the Iberian Peninsula in the early 1470s.
The figure of Antonio de Nebrija is fundamental in Spanish-speaking culture. First, because it provided Spanish with the grammatical, lexicographical and phonetic tools that reinforced its status as a lingua franca. On the other hand, Nebrija was also a humanist in the strict sense of the term, interested in almost everything, curious and passionate about knowledge.
In addition to being a Latinist, the Sevillian was a translator, biblical exegete, teacher, professor, lexicographer, linguist, writer, poet, historian, royal chronicler, pedagogue, printer and publisher. His texts deal with fields as diverse as law, medicine, astronomy or pedagogy. In several of these fields of knowledge, he proved to be ahead of his time. For example, he is considered the first defender of what would now be called “copyright”, he invented a “universal” measurement system (his own foot) and did not hesitate to defend the freedom of conscience and expression despite the risks that this implied in his time.
His professional activity lasted more than half a century. For more information on this fascinating humanist, visit the Antonio de Nebrija V centenary website: www.nebrija500.es