Gerard Couzens, Express, January 23, 2017
The site became an English-only site shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president on Friday.
The Spanish version of the White House page was created in the months following President Barack Obama’s swearing-in in 2009.
Internet users trying to access www.whitehouse.gov/espanol are getting a message saying, ‘Sorry, the page you’re looking for cannot be found’.
The move is expected to be temporary, with the Washington Post quoting White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer today as saying the Spanish site would soon return and blaming work issues and a desire to “hit the ground running” and make sure as much information was put up under the Trump administration as soon as possible.
But the change did not stop high-ranking Spanish ministers from expressing their concern.
Around 37 million people living in the States are believed to be fluent Spanish speakers, although another 15 million have a good notion of the language but don’t speak it regularly.
Fernando Benzo, under-secretary of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, said he thought it was “logical” the US recognised the existence of their huge Spanish-speaking community.
He said: “In the United States there is such a large Spanish-speaking community that it is logical that the institutions recognise its existence and importance in American society.”
Spain’s Foreign Affairs Minister Alfonso Dastis went a step further, insisting: “It doesn’t seem a good idea to us. We believe that in a country where 52 million people speak Spanish, it’s not a great idea to give up an instrument of communication.”
Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo, Minister for Education, Culture and Sport described it as “not a good piece of news” but said it wouldn’t endanger the unstoppable progress of the language.
Earlier Dario Villanueva, the director of the Royal Spanish Academy, the official royal institution responsible for overseeing the Spanish language, described the disappearance of Spanish language content from the White House website as “negative, very significant and an important step backwards.”
He said: “Without doubt it’s very significant and negative, but the presence of Spanish in the United States is unstoppable.”
During his presidential campaign Trump spoke out several times against speaking Spanish in the United States.
In September 2015 he criticised his then-rival Jeb Bush during a debate for speaking Spanish on the campaign trail, insisting: “To have a country, we have to have assimilation.
“This is a country where we speak English, not Spanish.”
The Washington Post, quoting White House press secretary Sean Spicer, said after the comments by Spanish ministers: “We hit the ground running on Day One.
“There was a lot of work to do, and we had done a lot of work on the website to make sure that we were prepared to get as much information up as fast as possible.
“We are continuing to build out the website both in the issue areas and in that area. But we’ve got the IT folks working overtime to continue to get all of that up to speed. Trust me, it’s going to take a little bit more time, but we’re working piece by piece to get that done.”