Beginner Spanish OER


Beginner Spanish OER

Beginner Spanish

The Hispanic Presence
in Canada

E Pluribus Anthony PD.

E Pluribus Anthony PD


Spain had land claims to all of Canada since Christopher Columbus claimed the New World for Spain on October 12, 1492. Through the Treaty of Tordesillas signed June 7, 1494 Pope Alexander VI divided the New World between Spain and Portugal. Portugal received the eastern portion of Brazil and Spain received the rest, which included Canada.

Map showing the Strait of San Juan de Fuca.

Map showing the Strait of San Juan de Fuca. GoogleMaps

Sunset over the Strait of San Juan de Fuca.

Sunset over the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, as seen from the town of Sekiu, Washington, USA looking northwest with Vancouver Island in the distance. Parametrix, Inc. PD

Vasco Núñez de Balboa was the first European to take possession of the Pacific Ocean and adjoining lands for Spain in 1513. But it was a Greek born Spanish explorer Juan de Fuca, in the service of the king of Spain, who explored the Strait of Anián in 1592, now known as the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between Vancouver Island and Washington State. Since Spain was busy colonizing Latin America, Canada was ignored until the 18th century when Spain made an effort to explore and set up forts in British Columbia. It was Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra that explored the coast in 1775 and reasserted the Spanish claim for the Pacific coast, first made by Núñez de Balboa.

On the Atlantic coast, Spanish people from northwestern Spain known as Basques have been landing in Newfoundland since the late 14th century to dry their cod fish, which they caught in the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Hispanic Population and Immigration

Canadians of Latin American origins make up one of the largest non-European ethnic groups in Canada.

Census Year
Population (%)
Latin American Population Change from
previous census
Latin American
1996 176,970 N/A 0.6%
2001 216,980 22.6% 0.7%
2006 304,245 40.2% 1%
2011 381,280 25.3% 1.2%

In 1996 people of Latin American origin living in Canada represented barely over 0.5% of the total population of Canada. The Latin American community in Canada is growing considerably faster than the overall population resulting in an increase to over 1.2% of the total Canadian population in 2011. A small fraction of Canadians of Spanish origins add to these numbers, but due to commonly being grouped into Spanish speaking categories, it is difficult to get precise numbers.

The majority of the Latin American population living in Canada was born outside the country and primarily live in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia or Alberta. The vast majority live in one of Canada’s major metropolitan areas with Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver being their most popular choices.

The trend for Canadians of Latin American origin to concentrate in large metropolitan areas is likely to continue in the future, as recent immigrants have tended to settle in Canada's largest cities which may be due to their tendency to be in the prime working years between the ages of 25 and 44.

While most can speak at least one official language, the large majority have a mother tongue other than English or French. In 2001, 87% of the Latin American community said that their mother tongue was a non-official language, in most cases Spanish.

While they are somewhat more likely than their counterparts in the overall population to hold a university degree and are also more likely than to have a post-graduate degree, they are over-represented among Canadians employed in manufacturing jobs at nearly a 2:1 ratio. In stark contrast they are underrepresented in almost all other occupational categories.

According to the Ethnic Diversity Survey in 2002, a large majority of Canadians of Latin American origin say they feel a strong sense of belonging to Canada while at the same time having a strong sense of belonging to their ethnic or cultural group. In the section that follows you will read about the diverse Hispanic Canadians that have integrated into the many aspects of Canadian culture while still retaining ties to their Hispanic and multinational origins.

Canadians with Hispanic Connections

The NHL has benefited from direct and indirect Hispanic migration to Canada, as new immigrants took to the national sport on ice.

Willi Plett

Willi Plett

Willi Plett Click on image to view a larger version of image.

Plett’s parents, who had lived in the Soviet Union and then Germany, fled to South America to escape the Second World War. They settled in Asunción, Paraguay, where Willi was born on June 7, 1955. His family moved to Canada one year later, settling in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

He started playing organized hockey at the age of 12. He played with the St. Catharines Black Hawks and the Niagara Falls Flyers. The Atlanta Flames selected him with their fifth round selection, 80th overall, at the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft.

Raffi Torres

Raffi Torres

Raffi Torres Click on image to view a larger version of image.

Torres was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to Juan and Anna Torres. His father emigrated from Mexico City with his family in the early 1970s, while his mother is from Lima, Peru, and is of Greek, Italian, and Serbian ancestry. He has also played in the NHL for the Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks, and Phoenix Coyotes.

Rosa Mendes

Rosa Mendes

Rosa Mendes Click on image to view a larger version of image.

Milena Leticia Roucka was born October 25, 1979 in Vancouver, British Columbia and is of Czech and Costa Rican descent. She is a Canadian professional wrestler, professional wrestling valet, former ring announcer and former model who is currently signed with WWE under the ring name, Rosa Mendes. She is also a main cast member of E! reality series Total Divas.

Alberto Guerrero

Alberto Guerrero

Alberto Guerrero Click on image to view a larger version of image.

Born in La Serena, Chile, Guerrero first studied piano with his mother and older brother Daniel; he was otherwise self-taught. As a resourceful composer and talented concert pianist, Guerrero would have a reform-minded influence on Chilean musical life. He founded and conducted Santiago’s first symphony orchestra.

In 1918, during a honeymoon trip to New York, Guerrero came in contact with members of the Hambourg family, who invited him to teach at the recently established Hambourg Conservatory in Toronto. Guerrero accepted this position and emigrated to Canada with his wife and daughter the following year. There, as one of Canada's most active pianists, he played regular radio recitals beginning in the mid-1920s and through to the early 1950s. In 1922, Guerrero left the Hambourg Conservatory and joined the Toronto Conservatory of Music (Royal Conservatory of Music), where he remained until his death in Toronto in 1959, having established himself as one of Canada's preeminent music teachers.

Oscar Lopez

Oscar Lopez

Oscar Lopez Click on image to view a larger version of image.

Oscar Lopez was born in 1953 in Santiago, Chile and is a Chilean-Canadian master guitarist whose signature style combines fiery solos and Latin rhythms with Jazz and Pop sensibilities. Lopez moved to Canada, first to Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1979 and then in 1981 he settled in Calgary, Alberta. He began pursuing music as a career, becoming a popular draw on the Canadian music festival circuit. He has released 12 albums between 1989 and 2014 having won the 2002 Juno for Best Instrumental Album and the 2005 Juno for Instrumental Album of the Year while receiving an additional 7 nominations. Listen to one of his most popular songs "Loco por ti"

Paola Nunez Valdez

Paola Nunez Valdez

Paola Nunez Valdez Click on image to view a larger version of image.

Paola Nunez was born in the Dominican Republic, but at the age of ten her mother brought her to Toronto, Canada. The transition was difficult as Paola was frequently bullied and hid in her school's washroom to escape the bullying and taunting from classmates in large part due to the language barrier. She was crowned Miss Universe Canada on May 25, 2015, making her the first participant of Latin heritage to take the crown in the contest's history.

Manuel Buchwald

Manuel Buchwald

Manuel Buchwald Click on image to view a larger version of image.

Manuel Buchwald was born June 7, 1940 in Lima, Peru to an Austrian father and is a Canadian geneticist and academic. From 1973 to 1977, he was an assistant professor at the University of Toronto and was an associate professor from 1977 to 1986. In 1996, he was appointed senior scientist and director of the Hospital for Sick Children’s Research Institute. He also holds the Lombard Insurance Chair in Pediatric Research.

In 1991, he was made an officer of the Order of Canada for “major molecular biological thrust into cystic fibrosis research”. In 1992, he was awarded the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal. In 1994, he was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is also a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Federico Hidalgo

Federico Hidalgo

Federico Hidalgo Click on image to view a larger version of image.

Federico Hidalgo is an Argentine born filmmaker and film professor at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. He has directed four feature fiction films to date A Silent Love (2004), Imitation (2006), L'incrédule (2011) and Le concierge (2014), as well as a feature-length documentary, New Tricks (2009). Through the lens he shares a unique perspective on what it means to be an immigrant, a Canadian, and both at the same time.

A Silent Love (2004), co-written with his wife, Paulina Robles, was nominated for a Genie Award for best original screenplay and was accepted to the Sundance Film Festival. It also won the Best Screenplay Award at the 2004 Brooklyn International Film Festival. The film emphasizes the fact that in Montréal two languages are spoke, and is underscored by the irony of a young Mexican wife coming to Montréal and ending up in a sushi restaurant owned by Chinese people working with a Japanese chef. So even after learning English and French to complement her native Spanish, her daily life will now also include Mandarin and Japanese. You can watch the trailer below:

He follows this up with Imitation (2006) a dramatic comedy that takes place in the streets of Montreal. You can watch the trailer below:

In his movies, Hidalgo explores what it means to have one foot in two cultures, particularly focused on the Canadian-Latino experience. It is this expression of cultural identity and diversity that will be repeatedly celebrated in the “Cápsula hispanocanadiense” in each Unit of this course.


Last modified: Thursday, 22 September 2016, 12:46 PM MDT