My friend from Gay Species has stated on several occasions that Spanish is the dominant language of the Western hemisphere. Not so: Spanish is spoken by a minority of persons in the New World. At a conservative estimate English is spoken by about 285 million people in the Western hemisphere. That figure results from subtracting 50 million in the US who ostensibly do not speak English--even though many of these, including nominal Hispanophones, actually do. Then one must add Anglophones in Canada and the West Indies. There are 282 million Spanish speakers in the New World. Spanish does not excede English in terms of numbers; the two are on a par. Then one must remember the influx of 190 million Portuguese speakers in Brazil. Reckoning French and French creole into the mix, one must conclude that only about 35% of the people in the Western hemisphere speak Spanish. Spanish is far from hegemonic.
Moreover (and here one must speak plainly) English is incomparably more important than Spanish in terms of the wealth, creativity, and resourcefulness of its speakers. By contrast, in the lands south of the border Spanish, because of the way in which the conquistadors imposed it, has become linked with obstacles to progress--namely racially-based caste distinctions, poverty, hopelessness, caciquismo, and corruption. That is the legacy of the conquistadores, and it will take much more than a change of regime in Mexico, Venezuela, Bolivia or any other Latin American country to erase this dismal heritage. Inevitably the Spanish language is implicated as the vehicle for the inferiorization that has victimized the indigenous peoples. It took centuries for these patterns of domination to be consolidated; it will take much work to eradicate them. The spread of the English language in Latin America is part of this process of modernization and ipso fact of deinferiorization.
One may object that these findings regarding the plight of Latin America are stereotypes. Opinions will differ. The reality though is that millions of Spanish speakers are acquiring fluent English--and for good reason. In this country their children will, most of them, speak English only. Chile has a crash program to make all of its citizens bilingual in English and Spanish. Members of the Mexican elite, such as Jorge Castaneda and Carlos Fuentes, speak flawless American English. By contrast George Bush and Al Gore have only rudiments of Spanish--because that is all they need. One isn't supposed to say this (it's so rude and un-PC), but the movement is away from Spanish to English. Everywhere, except in the US, where our politicians wish to preserve ethnic enclaves as voting blocs.
In Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands--even in France and Italy--educated people are massively acquiring English as a second language. In the Netherlands I find it impossible to practice my Dutch; my interlocutors immediately switch to English. People in those countries, who are not stupid, are not learning Spanish. English opens many doors; Spanish very few.
Gay Species lives in San Francisco. Where he sits wouldn't it be more relevant to ask what language is or soon will be dominant in the Pacific Rim? That language is Chinese.