In late-July, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) admitted Spanish-speaking Equatorial Guinea, its ninth member, despite the fact that the country is not a Portuguese-speaking one. The African country, in order to improve economic relations with the CPLP’s eight long-time official members (picture above), adopted Portuguese as one of its official languages in 2010, even though it goes unused by its citizens (save for a small island where a Portuguese creole is spoken).
Two years later, it tried to join the CPLP but was rejected on the basis of being a dictatorship, not respecting human rights, and for allowing the death penalty. Fast forward to 2014 and the country’s political policies haven’t changed, yet their admission into the Community was green-lighted. The ulterior motive, or underlying reason, is said to be due to better trade relations with the “Kuwait of Africa”, as Equatorial Guinea is sometimes known these days thanks to Exxon Mobil having found lots of oil there back in the 90s. Regardless, nearly 80% of its people live on less than one dollar per day.
If one takes away the controversy surrounding the Community’s newest member, we’re still left with the idea that a non Portuguese-speaking country can create a law out of thin air saying they’re adopting the Portuguese language. Is this ok? I suppose it depends on the country doing it.
The Brazilian-born head of the International Portuguese Language Institute, which predates the CPLP, Müller de Oliveira, states that Uruguay could easily be a candidate for inclusion in the CPLP since Portuguese is spoken all throughout the north. Earlier this year, he said,
“The country made several steps to bring itself closer to Portuguese, with the creation of the public bilingual schools. Nothing would stop, theoretically speaking, Uruguay from declaring Portuguese as an official language, in the future, as long as it could be understood as an opportunity and a positive, controlled process by their government”.
As long as other potential member countries took it seriously, I’m all for having Portuguese reach more people and gain influence in the world. Speculation about Uruguay now has me wanting to travel South America only on Brazilian Portuguese. We all can dream, right?