Bizantinismo...B-i-z-a-n-t-i-n-i-s-m-o...Bizantinismo!

That was the word that won it all for Evelyn Juárez, a seventh grade girl from Santa Cruz N.M. who won the first national Spanish spelling bee Saturday.

Juárez, of Carlos F. Vigil Middle School, won by correctly spelling the Spanish word "bizantinismo," which means excess luxury.

The runner-up German Rojero, of Los Lunas Middle School, misspelled "kanindeyuense," someone from a Paraguayan territory.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the two each spelled about 20 words correctly to defeat nine other students, who hailed from as far away as Oregon and Texas though most were from New Mexico.

“We’re celebrating the multilingualism of America,” said Daniel Ward, editor of Language Magazine, one of the event’s sponsors, in a statement. “We’re recognizing that, like most of the world’s other children, [our kids will] need more than one language to succeed in our global village.”

By the numbers, Latinos would seem to have a leg up in this challenge: According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 33 percent of Latino households speak English and Spanish equally, and 17 percent are majority Spanish-language.

The inaugural bee was organized by the Alliance for Multilingual Multicultural Education (AMME) and the New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education (NMABE), and is modeled on the latter’s 15-year-old annual state Spanish Spelling Bee: Participants will be asked to spell out loud words randomly chosen from a list that had been provided to them beforehand.

From a linguistics standpoint, there’s been some snarking that the Spanish bee might be easier than the English one, since Spanish orthography is in general considered simpler. “In Spanish, every letter has a unique associated phoneme, so with very few exceptions, words are written exactly as they sound,” wrote the BBC.

Organizer David Briseno, who heads New Mexico's Association for Bilingual Education, says the state has had a contest since 1994 but he had been dreaming of a national event for years.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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