In English, ‘fake news’ does not expire


The cultural insularity of the English-speaking reading public is a factor in the limited presence of works translated from other languages in the English-speaking publishing market. Even after 9/11, some people still think that the history of the English-speaking peoples is the history of humanity, everything else being just an anthropological curiosity. The result is that more is written about Ibero-America in the English-speaking world than is read about Ibero-Americans. Americans know Ibero-Americans through specialists of their own nationality, without having direct access to the voices and realities of the region.

In a globalised world in English, the projection and penetration of the Hispanic world depends to a large extent on the work that is done conquer the US publishing market. Achieving this would help to shed the weight of the black legend and stereotypes that plunge the Ibero-Americans into mistrust and disaffection for their heritage. Ibero-Americans have given up on interpreting reality and identity from their own perspective, and this bad habit diminishes them. The result is that Spaniards in both hemispheres have apostatised from themselves. Even so, they still have their common language, Spanish, to care for and cherish it can be a way of preserving the heritage of the small remnant that patiently awaits.

In English, fake news does not expire, but they are transformed according to the rhythm that marks what remains for them, their interests. Once the game is discovered, you just have to wait for time to open the window of opportunity for the Spanish language in the United States.

Key words

Translations, books, Spanish language, black legend, United States, Ibero-America

A little untold history of English-speaking peoples

In the United States, publications of books translated from other languages represent only 3%, in the United Kingdom considerably less. Of the few books chosen by US publishers to be translated into English and published in their country, only a small minority achieve sufficient prominence and publicity to have a chance of attracting the attention of readers. Virtually only well-known authors have any chance of their publications reaching the general public.[1]

In addition, in the United States, Spanish is by far the language most translated by publishers, doubling the second language French and tripling Chinese, German and Russian.[2] Globally, as might be expected, the language in which most publishers publish is English, followed by German, French, Spanish and Italian, with the rest of the world’s languages far behind the top five. English has twice the number of publishers in the next four countries on the list.[3] Data can sometimes be confusing, so it is important to choose what to look for. 3% is far too low a figure for book translations in the United States compared to continental Europe. In 2017, one in five books in Spain was a translation, although the proportion has since fallen. France, with more publications than Spain, has a lower percentage of translation, but is in a similar range, while Italy is much higher.[4]

On the other hand, more than half the books translated outside the English-speaking world are translated from books written in English. There is therefore a mismatch between books translated from English—the vast majority—and books translated into English, the fewest. The result is that the rate at which non-English-speaking readers read works originally written in English is much higher than the rate at which English-speaking readers read works not written in English.

Of course, the number of English speakers who directly read in another language is very small. In many cases, speaking fluent English affords a cosmopolitan life without the need to spend time and effort learning another language. In Sweden, the Netherlands or Luxembourg, just to mention a few examples, you can work in one of the best companies in the world and interact with the most elite of society speaking only English, without needing to know a single word of Swedish, Dutch, French, German or Luxembourgish.

English is the dominant language and the global lingua franca. Publishers around the world are keeping an eye on works published in the United States and are certainly willing to publish American and British bestsellers. Best-selling authors in the US, such as John Grisham or Danielle Steel, garner a vast readership everywhere. The phenomenon is similar to that of cinema: in many countries, more North American films are seen than those produced in or around the country.

The cultural insularity of the English-speaking reading public and its publishers is a factor that induces them to concentrate on their own. Even after 9/11, some people may still think that the history of the English-speaking peoples is the history of humanity, and everything else is just an anthropological curiosity. Winston Churchill, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, ended his long study on the history of the English-speaking peoples, which he began writing at the age of 30 and finished at 80, by stating that ‘the future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope’.[5]

The private, aristocratic and select nature of the English-speaking club may be one of the historical reasons for the lack of interest in translating what others write. As it has discussed, this attitude is influenced by the dominance of English as a world language over the last century, its political, scientific, academic, cultural, technological, military and media primacy, and also by the fact that language teaching in the English-speaking world is often considered deficient. Consequently, there is little interest in reading works by foreign authors and not enough intellectual curiosity about other cultures.[6]

The importance of the US publishing market for the Ibero-American world

Publishing a work originally written in Spanish in English-speaking countries is not easy. First it needs a good English translation, which can be very expensive, and then it needs to be famous or a friend of a celebrity who can introduce it to the difficult American publishing market. The effort may be excessive, but success in the North American market opens doors to other markets around the world. The importance of a good translation is an essential step.

Each year, in the United States some 200,000 books are published in English. Between 1992 and 1994, only 24 new literary works written in Spanish by Ibero-American authors were chosen to compete, translated into English, in the US literary market. Meanwhile, the vast majority of publications in Ibero-America in all scientific, technical and academic disciplines are written in English or, if they are written in Spanish, their references are original works in English.[7]

In 2018, 632 books of fiction and poetry were translated for the first time into English from all other world languages, marking the fifth consecutive year with more than 600 translations. Quite a feat, especially if it considers that at the end of the first decade of the 21st century there were fewer than 400. However, most translations come from only a few countries. France, Germany and Spain are the main market suppliers. It is also worrying that the proportion of books coming from these three countries alone tends to grow.[8]

The result is that more is written about Ibero-America in the English-speaking world than is read by Ibero-Americans. Consequently, the most educated Americans get to know Ibero-America through specialists of their own nationality, without having direct access to the voices and realities of the region. In many cases, it is difficult for even the most educated sector of the US population to distinguish the diversity of a continent that speaks Spanish or Portuguese, and facts are often interpreted through only a few lenses, sometimes with too many filters.

In the field of literature, this situation is particularly complex because each Hispanic country has its own way of speaking and often very particular ways of understanding its own reality, even though they all think and speak in Spanish. Few good translators in the United States are able to tackle the works of the great Ibero-American authors. Moreover, translating Octavio Paz, Mario Vargas Llosa, Jorge Luis Borges, Camilo José Cela or Gabriel García Márquez each requires a particular adaptation to the Hispanic world. Of course, the way each author expresses himself in Spanish is different, although the context of may be even more so. It would be bold to ask a translator to be able to translate the books written by any of the great Ibero-American writers, so full of particularities and diversity.

For a long time in the United States, when a translated book was published, the name of the translator was not cited; this bad practice is gradually being corrected. The translator of a work, especially literature, is also an interpreter of the unknown world he or she translates into another language. This interpretation may not substantially alter the message or the form; this is no easy task and the translator’s work is not always sufficiently appreciated. Their competence is key to sustaining the real tension of the work while also making it intelligible to an audience that speaks a language other than the original. Books and their authors can travel thanks to translators, but the outcome of the journey also depends on the quality of the translation.

Attempting to encompass Latin American literature as a single entity that can be addressed by the work of a single translator would be to ignore an important fact: Latin America is a world made up of many singularities. The task would be impossible if it was also talking about poetry. Only a good translation makes it possible to discover others directly in one’s own language and with one’s own parameters. Moreover, political, linguistic and economic boundaries structure the English-speaking market when it comes to the choice of works and languages to be translated. These restrictions and limits are interconnected and related. Therefore, the penetration of Spanish and its literature in the American bibliographic market is a task that requires a comprehensive strategy of rapprochement and development.

In a globalised world in English, the projection and penetration of the culture, language, idiosyncrasies and diversity of what is thought, felt and believed in Spanish and Portuguese depends largely on thier work to conquer the US publishing market. This task undoubtedly requires a strategy. One way to start is to have good translators and interpreters of Ibero-American literature who can convey all its richness in English.

Almost everything that comes from the Ibero-American to the Americans and English-speakers in general goes through a few intermediaries. English-speaking translators, interpreters, analysts and experts have undoubtedly achieved remarkable qualifications for some things, but it is very difficult for them to achieve all the nuances. Research on Ibero-American affairs, in most cases in the non-Spanish speaking world, does not rely on primary sources written in Spanish or in Portuguese. English is all-dominating and those who think in English translate and interpret ibero-americans, often based on stereotypes, superficiality and arrogance. There are of course notable exceptions.

The boom in Ibero-American literature in the 1960s and 1970s, was seen by many as a commercial success, triggered by the predatory attraction of the United States to its southern backyard. From this point of view, the success of the Hispanic American novel in the United States was largely a consequence of a cannibalistic appetite for the exotic, the magical and the incomprehensible mystery of a South that was geographically close, but culturally ignored, distant, alien and of no apparent interest beyond the folkloric. Many identified the boom in Hispanic American literature as a phenomenon triggered by the English translation of García Márquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. Consequently, the novel’s sales success set off a rush to translate other works by writers from the region. Translation itself made up the so-called boom.

It truly is extravagant, but few understood that the Hispanic American literary boom and the translation into English, and from English into many other languages, of novelists from the region was a sign of the maturity of Hispanic culture in America. Americans can be convinced of the cultural maturity of the Hispanic world with a little push from a select team of translators and a prepared staging.

The effort would be profitable not only have in terms of culture and better perception, judgement, evolution and decision of the different US actors with respect to the Spains of both hemispheres. In parallel, without fuss, step by step the respect and affection would be gain for what has been built up in value. Consequently, the relationship between Spanish and English, between Hispanics or Latinos and non-Hispanics in the United States, would be normalised, facilitating a progressive overcoming of prejudice, mistrust and disinterest. In a few years’ time, it would be possible for many Anglo-Saxons to stop looking at the Hispanics without seeing them.

The West diminished by English

Absolute domination of the English language and the filters established by its analysts is related to a natural inclination to place a diminished West at the centre, which perceives and thinks everything from the Anglo-Saxon point of view and keeps everything that is alien to it, or that it has decided to consider marginal, out of the spotlight. The centre of the world lies beneath feet that speak, feel and think in English but are confident that they know enough about the complex reality of an entire continent south of the Rio Grande just because some of them speak Spanish and are able to translate and interpret it according to their own parameters. Inevitably, their perception is often based on distorted foundations due to their point of view and their cultural approach to a different reality marked by diversity. The media aggravate the situation. Chesterton said that the ‘great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence, that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions’.[9]

It is sensible to recognise that few things are more difficult to get to know than a foreign country. While always hard, the degree of difficulty increases with cultural and technological distance. The accumulation of data is never a substitute for direct impressions, experiencing a way of life. A village is also a system of secrets that cannot simply be discovered from the outside. Secrecy and mystery suddenly become the key that unlocks understanding, making it possible to relate to an accurate interpretation of perceptions and their meanings. A nation is a system of secrets.[10]

To this difficulty can be added the strength of stereotypes and the insufficient penetration of a more balanced interpretation of the identity and history of Hispanic peoples. Spanish historiography is depleted and diminished by the perverse effects of the ‘Black Legend’ and also by its inability or disinterest in dismantling it. As late as 1921, in his work España invertebrada, Ortega said that ‘to speak of the history of Spain is to speak of the unknown’.[11] More than sixty years later, Julián Marías, his outstanding disciple, reminds that since the eighteenth century Spaniards in both hemispheres have assumed their enemies’ account of their history, their character, their condition and their destiny.[12]

A Spaniard seems naturally inclined to give credit to a North American historian, with a PhD from Harvard, when writing a history of Mexico. The most sensible thing to do would be to question this Mexican history precisely because it was written by an American, educated at a university in his country and with access mainly to American sources or those written in English. It is not sensible to grant authority to a North American, just because he has a PhD from Harvard, on the history of Mexico or the Philippines or Cuba or Puerto Rico, and we could go on. Especially considering that more than half of Mexico’s territory was seized by the United States after the war that ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, which allowed the expropriation of Texas, California, Arizona, Arkansas, New Mexico, Nevada and part of Oregon. It does not seem to have much of a case for simply giving in to the perception of a New England historian.

Do we know if it is known?

Thinking of the beloved Peru, it was Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, a Creole from Lima and an officer in the navy of His Catholic Majesty Charles III, who, leaving the Mexican port of San Blas, explored the entire northwest coast of America along the Pacific Ocean as far as Alaska. The entire coast of the United States and part of British Columbia were mapped on his voyage. He was later sent to southern Canada to establish the boundaries agreed with the United Kingdom in the Nootka Conventions.

Quadra met with British naval officer George Vancouver, commanding the ship HMS Discovery. Without reaching a final agreement, the two commanders took the amicable decision to name the main island Quadra and Vancouver Island.[13] The name of the Spanish navy commander from Lina was eventually forgotten, but not entirely. In the city of Vancouver there is still a district, where the University of British Columbia is located, which bears Quadra’s name, and on the North American coast a bay also bears his name. Still further north, in the state of Alaska, we find the towns of Valdez and Cordova[14] founded by Spanish sailors who also set off from the Mexican port of San Blas.

This is just one example that can help to illustrate how little is known about the great deeds the world has seen performed by the sons of El Cid. Meanwhile, Mexican President Manuel Andrés López Obrador has not missed an opportunity to reiterate that His Holiness the Pope and the King of Spain should to apologise for the liberation of the indigenous peoples, led by Hernán Cortés, from Mexica tyranny. The president, however, forgets to demand explanations from the United States of America for the occupation of 60% of the territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. In 1791, when the first census of the United States of America was organised, New York and Washington together had half the population of Mexico City.

Looking at trade, the first global currency was the Spanish doubloon of eight escudos, minted in Mexico and Lima. In 1803 this currency, the Spanish dollar, was the first official currency of the United States of America, legal tender until 1857, and the only one accepted in the distant Asian markets of China, Japan and Indochina.

Regarding the complexes related to, apparently the secular backwardness in the academic and cultural world, a little memory is enough. In the United States, they do not agree on which is their first university. Harvard claims to be ‘the oldest institution of higher education in the United States’, founded in 1636. The University of Pennsylvania is awarded the title of the first university in the United States, founded in 1740, and the first to have a medical school in 1765.

Accepting that Harvard was a university in 1636—a controversial issue for North Americans themselves—It could be say that in Hispanic America there were at least 15 universities in operation that year. The first, Santo Domingo, was founded a century before Harvard began to teach anything. If Pennsylvania was the first, then it would has to point out that there were 24 universities in Hispanic America teaching before that. Nobody doubts that the oldest university on the American continent, with continuous operation from its foundation to the present day, is the Royal and Pontifical University of San Marcos, in Lima, where, incidentally, Spanish sailor Bodega y Quadra mentioned above studied.

Another interesting issue is the relationship with pre-Columbian cultures. The University of San Marcos began operating in 1551 and less than 30 years later, before the first British settlers arrived in Virginia, the chair of the General Indian Language was established. The first professor of the Quechua language was the canon of the cathedral of Lima, Juan de Balboa. Quechua is currently spoken by between eight and ten million people in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia. Incidentally, to complete the picture a little, at the medical school at the Royal and Pontifical University of Lima began operating in 1620, almost a century and a half before the first medical school in the United States.

Fray Andrés de Olmos, a Franciscan missionary and philologist, born in Burgos, arrived in New Spain in 1528, shortly after the victory of Hernán Cortés and his Indian allies against the Mexica empire. He wrote the first grammar of Nahuatl, the language of the Mexicas, in 1547. He continued with the grammars of Huastec and Totonac, becoming the first grammarian of three languages of the New World and possibly of the Old.[15]

Domingo de Santo Tomás, priest, missionary, Dominican, linguist and bishop of Charcas, who arrived in Peru in 1540 shortly after the conquest, published in 1560 the first grammar and vocabulary of the Quechua language.[16] In the meantime, English would not have its own grammar until 1586, which William Bullokar would publish under the amusing title Pamphlet of Grammar. At that time, the Spanish had published—several decades earlier—at least four grammars of native American languages.

Nahuatl is currently spoken by some two and a half million people. It is the language of the Mexica or Aztecs who dominated a large part of Mexico, making their language a lingua franca in the region before the arrival of the Spanish. The preponderance of Nahuatl prompted the Franciscans to propose it to Philip II as the official language of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. His Catholic Majesty, Philip II, by Royal Decree of 1570 established Nahuatl as the official language for the viceroyalty, with the purpose of favouring evangelization.[17] After 300 years of viceroyalty, in 1820, approximately 65-70% of the population spoke an indigenous language, Nahuatl being the best known. Now, after 200 years of independence, only 6.5% of the population speaks a pre-Columbian language.[18]

Meanwhile, in the United States, the most widely-spoken indigenous language is Navajo, with over 150,000 people. Navajo was used by the US armed forces during World War II to transmit encrypted oral messages, at which time there was no Navajo dictionary with another language. The Navajo code was declassified in 1968 and has been the only military radio telephone code that could never be cracked.[19] It is no coincidence that the Navajo Nation is concentrated in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, territories controlled by the Viceroyalty of New Spain until Mexican independence and incorporated into the Union in the 20th century.

After all that has been said, it would be prudent to analyse who are the protagonists of the biggest fake news in history to find out what connects its protagonists. The English, Dutch and Germans, who initially built and later nurtured the black legend, were Protestant enemies of the Catholic Church. Freemasonry, communism and the unbridled capitalism of prosperity gospel, North American and evangelical, are coincidentally also declared enemies of the Catholic Church.

Vittorio Messori’s book, Leyendas negras de la Iglesia (Black Legends of the Church), features a preface written by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, then Archbishop of Bologna, which begins: ‘When a boy, educated as a Christian by the family and the parish community, starts to feel ashamed of the history of his Church on the basis of the apodictic assertions of some teacher or some text, he is objectively in grave danger of losing his faith. This is a regrettable but indisputable observation’.[20]

The Cardinal’s initial reflection applied to the Church can easily be applied to the Hispanic world. The suggested correlation is confirmed by reading Messori’s book. It should come as no surprise, but the truth is that it may seem curious to many that to read the black legends of the Catholic Church is to discover that they are fundamentally the black legends of Spain.


At first glance, one might think that the black legend is more a defensive propaganda mechanism than an effort to destroy the prestige of the first global empire in history, aimed more at hiding what was extraordinary about what the Spanish did than at highlighting the excesses they may have committed. It is therefore easy to dismantle by simply highlighting what those who came before have done.

However, the weight of the black legend plunges them into mistrust and detachment from their heritage. Among the possible reasons for this strange behaviour towards their own identity may be their insufficient self-esteem. They have given up on interpreting their reality and identity from their own perspective and this bad habit belittles them. The result is that Spaniards in both hemispheres have apostatised from themselves.

The memory of what unites them as Hispanics has been lost. Therefore, it is very difficult for them to consider its value. The rifts that have opened up between them are the result of an imposition; of a centuries-long psychological war that has been won by those who do not appreciate them. The falsehood that to a large extent covers the perception of their identity, outside and unfortunately at home, is imposed and consolidated. The past two centuries of internal wars have to do, not least, with the complexes that the resentment of others has sown to dissolve them.

Along the way they have lost they inner freedom, the identity of our conscience and our affection for our history. Hispanic culture is one of the most sublime fruits of European civilisation. It allowed the creation of a unique space where the Old and the New World were part of the same feeling, thinking and believing. Where everyone looked at the others from a sky of freedom and equality, of course insufficiently complete in time, but recognised as disguised in the ups and downs of everyday life just by looking at the Plus Ultra that never ends and which we already felt part of. Even so, we still have our common language, Spanish, and caring for it and cherishing it can be a way of preserving the heritage of the small remnant that patiently awaits the moment to start living together again in a consciously integrated Ibero-American space.

In English, ‘fake news’ does not expire, but it is transformed according to the pace set by what remains for it, its interests. “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”[21] Once you have discovered the game, you just have to wait for time to open the window of opportunity for the Spanish language in the United States.[22]

‘Today, the Hispanic community is the main engine of population growth in the United States. In 2018 alone, the increase in the Hispanic population accounted for more than half of the country’s total population growth. According to projections by the US Census Bureau, the number of Hispanics will exceed 111 million by 2060. That will mean that 27.5% of the population, almost one in three Americans, will be of Hispanic origin.[23]


  1. Maria Diment, “Why Are So Few Translated Books Published in America?,” Alta (june 30, 2019),
  2. Publisher global, “United States: List of American Publishers,” Publisher global,
  3. Publisher global, “Languages in Publishers Directory,” Publisher global,
  4. Europapress, “Las traducciones en España suponen el 21% de la producción editorial en España, con 14.000 libros de media al año,” Europapress (may 23, 2018),
  5. Wiston Chruchill, La historia de los pueblos de habla inglesa (Madrid: La Esfera de los libros, 2007)
  6. ‘The number of translations in the UK of books in Spanish (from Spain or Latin America) has increased, according to the Director of New Spanish Books, by 50%, from 63 in 2004 to 93 in 2007; of these, 26 are “classics” and 67 “contemporary works”’, see Cristina Fuentes de la Roche, “Literature in Translation: Why is it so Difficult to Enter the Anglo-American Market?,” Real Instituto Elcano (Madrid: 2008),
  7. Steven F. White, “Translation and Teaching: the Dangers of Representing Latin America for Students in the United States,” Cadernos de Tradução (Florianópolis: Santa Catarina Federal University, 1997)
  8. Dan Kopf, “Half of all translated books in the US come from just nine countries,”, Quartz (june 6, 2019),
  9. Gilbert Keith Chesterton, La esfera y la cruz (Madrid: Valdemar, 2005)
  10. Julian Marias, España inteligible; Razón histórica de las Españas (Madird: Lavel, 1985)
  11. Jose Ortega y Gasset, España invertebrada,—Espana-Invertebrada.pdf
  12. MARíAS , España Inteligible
  13. Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, El descubrimiento del fin del mundo (1775-1792) (Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1990)
  14. The spelling is that used by Americans to refer to these two cities.
  15. Pilar Máynes, “Ascensión y Miguel León-Portilla, Las primeras gramáticas del Nuevo Mundo,” SciELO (Mexico: fondo de Cultura Economica, 2009),
  16. Domingo de Santo Tomás published in Valladolid the first two works in Quechua, Gramática o arte de la lengua general de los indios de los reinos del Perú, and Lexicón o vocabulario de la lengua general del Perú. He would later return to Peru where he would be appointed bishop of Charcas in Upper Peru, now in Bolivia.
  17. In July 1570, Philip II issued the Royal Decree declaring Nahuatl as the official language for the Christianisation of the Indians of New Spain, see Icíar Alonso Araguás, Intérpretes de Indias. La mediación lingüística y cultural en los viajes de exploración y conquista: Antillas, Caribe y Golfo de México (1492-1540) (Salamanca: Salamanca University, Facultad de Traducción y Documentación, Departamento de Traducción e Interpretación,2005), doctoral Thesis,;jsessionid=75A6A3CC7582F391610C82D3CC2EEC5B?sequence=2
  18. Carlos Heras, “Más allá del español: 500 lenguas corren peligro en América Latina,” El País (april 15, 2019),
  19. Margalit Fox, “Chester Nez, 93, Dies; Navajo Words washed from Mouth helped win war,” The New York Times (june 5, 2014),
  20. Vittorio Messori, Leyendas negras de la Iglesia (Barcelona: Planeta, 2004)
  21. Quote from Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
  22. More than 62 million Americans, 18.7% of the country’s total population, are of Hispanic origin. Seventy-one per cent of Hispanics use Spanish in the home environment. Spanish is by far the most widely studied foreign language at all levels of education in the United States. The 2020 presidential election was the first in which Hispanics were the largest ethnic minority. In the last five decades, the Hispanic population has increased almost sevenfold and its relative weight has quadrupled. In higher education, the number of students enrolled in Spanish courses exceeds the total number of students enrolled in courses in other languages, see Instituto Cervantes Centro Virtual Cervantes, “El Español una lengua viva,” CVC (2020),informe, 4,
  23. Ibíd.


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The ideas contained in this analysis are the sole responsibility of the author, without necessarily reflecting the thoughts of the CEEEP or the Peruvian Army.

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