Spanish novelist Vanessa Montfort during the presentation of La hermandad de las malas hijas (The Sisterhood of Bad Daughters) in Geneva, January 2024 © LAURA CHUMILLAS

Let’s celebrate Spanish Language Day
On 23 April, the United Nations celebrates Spanish Language Day to commemorate the history and the use of Spanish as an official language of the UN
1 Apr 2024

Miguel de Cervantes is thought to have died in 1616 on 23 April, which is supposedly when William Shakespeare also died which explains why English Language Day is also celebrated on this day. 

The Association of Spanish International Civil Servants (AFIE) is an independent, professional and non-profit association that brings together Spanish international civil servants from international organizations around the world. Its extensive cultural agenda goes from literary events and photography exhibitions to workshops for children and gastronomic events, organized around a (long) week dedicated to the language and culture of Spanish-speaking countries.

In January of this year, the Association invited Vanessa Montfort (Spain, 1975), a well-known novelist, playwright and journalist to present her latest novel, entitled La hermandad de las malas hijas (The Sisterhood of Bad Daughters). This event was held in a hidden wine cellar in Geneva, in a building constructed around 1850 where the Spanish photographer Rodolfo Romero was exhibiting his work called España con otro enfoque. Montfort delighted the audience by explaining how she creates the characters in her novels. She also spoke about other book launches and world-wide presentations, and quoted other biographical anecdotes.

As part of the activities of 2024 Spanish Language Week, which will take place from mid-April until the first week of May, we are organizing the following events – do not forget to pencil them down in your agendas:

A new mus (card game) tournament. This edition will have two phases: a very flexible preliminary phase, in February and March, in which the goal will be to play as many games as possible; and a second, more formal phase, which will start after Easter.

A total plunge into a sensorial discovery under the thoughtful initiative of Eva Johnston, founder of Eva.J Swiss Organic Neurocosmetics. Johnston will make participants discover sight, smell, color, texture and touch through the medium of luxury glassware. An extraordinary experience for the senses through the blending of science and organic medicinal plants for a skincare experience that transcends traditional boundaries. Interested participants should enrol at before Friday 12 April, 2024.

On Saturday morning, 27 April, María Dolores García-Aznar, collection specialist of the graphic arts collection at Musée d’Art et Histoire (MAH) in Geneva, will present ‘A journey through Spain through the graphic arts collection.’ We will see a selection of works representing Spanish cities, monuments, customs, traditions and literature. 

We will have an opportunity to contemplate prints, drawings and photographs of different artists, periods and graphic design techniques. The graphic arts collection has some 375,000 drawings, pastels, prints and multiples, which constitute one of the most important European collections of works on paper. Interested participants should enrol at before Monday 22 April, 2024. The exact address/time of the venue will be sent to the participants.

Another event in the agenda will be the presentation in Geneva on Friday, 3 May of Un papel en el mundo, El lugar de los escritores and El aviador, by the Spanish writer Carlos Fortea. This work addresses the position of writers and authors and their role in today’s world. In this book, Fortea discusses a world to which literary authors aspire. El aviador retraces the history and present life of Scheherazade’s successors to find out whether life still depends on their inventions, like that of the narrator of One Thousand and One Nights. El aviador takes place in London in 1940, at the beginning of the Second World War, with several characters struggling to recall their own memories of Spain. Fortea has been awarded the 2023 Spanish Translation Award for his translation of Gabriele Tergit’s The Effingers: A Berlin Saga. This award highlighted the linguistic quality and skills with which he was able to resolve the multiple challenges posed by such a complex work.

The celebration of Spanish Language Day will also include a storytelling-interactive activity with the Spanish writer and illustrator of children’s books, Alicia Teba, who studied film directing and screenwriting and later attended the Llotja art school in Barcelona, where she became an illustrator. She has since worked on illustrated album projects, comics, design and even concept art and storyboards, although her true passion is illustrations for children. She will present a collection of three books written and illustrated by her, entitled La Bruja Ring Ring, recommended for six year olds and above.

The winners of our traditional writing contest will receive their awards at the end of the week. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Argentine writer and translator Julio Cortázar. One of the best known works of his career is Rayuela. As a humble tribute to this anniversary, this year we invited participants to send a short story in whose plot a children’s game plays a prominent role, attaching an image or a photograph to accompany the story.

The Association of Spanish International Civil Servants also plans to present a book on Sofia Casanova, written by Josep Bosch, a journalist by training and vocation who worked as Press Correspondent in several countries in Europe and Asia and as Spokesperson and Press Officer for the World Trade Organization (WTO). In this book, Bosch portrays the life of a woman who did not want to become a journalist and was the first woman to become a Press Correspondent during the First and Second World Wars.

More information on these events can be found on the Association’s website:, Instagram: @palabras_mas / espera_que_te_lo_cuento, Facebook: Palabras+ and X: AFIE_ES. 

* Gemma Capellas is Head of Linguistic Production at WMO and UNToday Editorial Adviser. Jesus Guerrero is Chief, Management and Communications Unit at the Center for Learning and Multilingualism (CLM), at UNOG.
Read more articles about CULTURE