Despite not having specific training in the matter – he was an actor and has been in politics for more than a decade linked to three different parties – and after his frustrated attempt to go on the PP lists in the Community of Madrid in the last regional elections, Isabel Díaz Ayuso placed Toni Cantó at the head of the then brand new Spanish Office in June 2021. An entity created ad hoc for the interpreter and without clear functions that have earned him an annual salary of 75,000 euros. Fourteen months later, Cantó said goodbye to the position this Thursday to start a “new professional project” and assured that the experience had been “unforgettable”. A day later he revealed his signing by the 7NN television network, close to the extreme right.
Toni Cantó leaves the Spanish Office to start a “new project”: “It has been an unforgettable experience”
The Office of Spanish was launched with controversy and has not ceased to be in the sights of the opposition of Más Madrid, PSOE and United We Can in the Madrid Assembly, who have questioned its “superfluous” character and have unanimously described it as “chiringuito”. These formations have criticized, among other issues, that it competes in the promotion of the language with other state-level organizations that already exist and have a long history such as the Royal Spanish Academy or the Cervantes Institute, or that it seeks “confrontation” with other territories by the commitment of the regional president in the crusade against “indigenism”.
“The beach bar is what you see, it is me. There is no other structure than me ”, Cantó himself ironized in an interview after the dust raised by his appointment. The truth is that the agency maintains only two officials on staff, according to what he published The country, and has no budget of its own. The regional accounts only collect the overall budget of the General Directorate of Patrimony on which it depends, so the funds that it really has are an unknown quantity. Before arriving in the PP, when he held positions in UPyD and Ciudadanos, the exactor did not skimp on criticism of alleged superfluous expenses generated, in his opinion, by entities such as the Women’s Institute, the Ministry of Equality, the Andalusian Employment Service , TV3 or the Directorate General for Animal Rights.
The opposition has even said that the Spanish Office was a “consolation prize” for Cantó who, after leaving Ciudadanos, was expelled from the electoral lists of the conservatives by the Constitutional Court for not having been registered in Madrid before the call electoral. The arrival of the actor to the PP had been abrupt, since it was an imposition of the then general secretary of the party, Teodoro García Egea, on the Madrid president. After the elections, Ayuso found him a destination outside the front line, but not badly paid.
Until there is a new appointment, it will be the Minister of Culture, Marta Rivera de la Cruz, who will assume the functions of the Spanish Office. This Friday, Más Madrid registered a battery of questions in the Madrid Assembly to find out if there will be continuity in the entity, as well as the plans for the next course. In addition, the main opposition group requested the appearances of Cantó and Rivera. United We Can, for its part, directly requested Ayuso to close what they describe as a “sink of public money.”
Hispanic heritage and language tourism
When, a year ago, he was called to appear at the Madrid Assembly to give an account of his work at the head of this entity, Cantó focused his speech on defending his two great objectives: the glorification of Hispanic heritage and the promotion of Madrid as destination to learn Spanish through the so-called language tourism.
The importance of waging a cultural battle in defense of the Spanish legacy of five centuries ago against revisionist movements is an approach that Ayuso has deployed on other occasions and that, according to the autonomous left, is the expression of a “belligerent ideology” that it favors the confrontation with some regions of Spain and Latin America.
On this issue, Cantó even said in parliament that the conquest of America freed thousands of people from a “savage and cannibal” power. In fact, in the regional Executive they cite the “Hispanidad” festival, which coincides with the October 12 holiday, as the “great action” that the Spanish Office has carried out so far. Its first edition, held last year, had a budget of 850,000 euros. And the Community itself highlighted as its most significant events the concert by Ana Mena, Omar Montes and Yotuel and a bullfight. In almost a hundred activities between concerts, conferences or exhibitions there was not a trace of indigenous cultures. The regional Executive is now finalizing the celebration of this year for next October.
In that first parliamentary appearance, Cantó also explained that between 80 and 90% of his work was going to be aimed at making Madrid a preferred destination for foreign students. Last May, in another speech in the Assembly, he recognized that behind this interest there was above all “an economic reason” because the Spanish students who come to Madrid usually stay “for longer than the usual tourism and, in addition, they spend almost double their resources,” he assured.
That will has been substantiated in an agreement with the Spanish Federation of Schools of Spanish as a Foreign Language (FEDELE), the employers of the academies, which has received public money —Cantó did not specify how much— to finance its attendance at international educational fairs. With this same objective, the Community invited more than twenty tourist agents from more than a dozen countries last April. “These agents are the ones who decide which countries the Spanish students are going to go to, and we were able to show them during a weekend that there is no better destination than Madrid,” explained Cantó. They visited the FEDELE academies, walked through the Prado and “verified that we have the best cuisine in the world,” he added.
Behind these initiatives is the objective of relaunching the teaching of Spanish, a succulent business that, before the pandemic, left 30 million euros a year in the Community. In fact, Cantó’s public agenda includes numerous appointments with representatives of universities, publishers and businessmen from this sector set under the subject “discussing issues on the economy and the Spanish language”.