Named after the iconic Spanish writer, Miguel de Cervantes, Instituto Cervantes is headquartered in his birthplace of Alcalá de Henares in Madrid. It was founded in 1991 by the Spanish government to promote the study of the Spanish language and Spanish culture. Today Instituto Cervantes has grown to have over fifty-seven centers across the world, including Instituto Cervantes New York.
The institution is responsible for organizing and coordinating courses, training programs, cultural activities as well as, the distribution of DELE exams, otherwise known as, Diploma in Spanish as a Foreign Language. It has as its honorary president is His Majesty the King of Spain but is governed by a board of directors, headed by poet and essayist, Jon Juaristi.
Its New York center takes advantage of its location by collaborating with museums, galleries, publishing houses, and other cultural institutions while being inclusive to the Spanish-speaking world at large, through their work with Latin American organizations. To better provide teaching and learning the center has partnered with the New York City Department of Education. Together with these organizations it has hosted lectures, concerts, book presentations, and art exhibits, including the Flamenco Festival and Spanish Cinema Now Festival at Lincoln Center.
Since 1994, Instituto Cervantes New York (ICNY) has been a beacon of Spanish cultural production and dissemination in Manhattan and beyond. Today, it coordinates the network of North-American member centers including Albuquerque, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, and Calgary. But ICNY’s reach is much broader with regards to its cultural and teaching material, where it is used in Oklahoma, Massachussetts, Mississippi, Maine, Delaware, Arkansas, Ohio, New Hampshire, Maryland, Lousiana, Alabama, Vermont, Virginia, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Kentucky,West Virginia, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, New Jersey, and even Haiti.
ICNY is home to the Jorge Luis Borges Library, that was dedicated to the world renowned Argentine poet and storyteller in 2003. Borges was the 1979 Miguel de Cervantes prize winner – the highest award of the Spanish letters. The library occupies three floors of one of the buildings of the institute where it holds more than 65,000 volumes of Spanish and Latin American literature and reference materials; 8,000 audiovisual titles, including CDs, videos and DVDs; 500 periodical titles; bibliography databases; and Spanish study materials.
Today, Instituto Cervantes New York continues to grow, as its enrollment rises and it gains acclamation. It has been officially recognized for its work by City Hall and the New York City Department of Education and recently received the Ruth Bennett Award for Contribution to Hispanic Studies from the Metropolitan New York Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.