Two Latino students tied for first place at the Second Annual Santillana National Spanish Spelling Bee in Albuquerque, N.M. (Photo/courtesy of David Briseño )

Students tie for 1st place at the 2nd National Spanish Spelling Bee

D-E-T-E-R-M-I-N-A-D-O-S. That’s what two students from New Mexico were last Saturday during the Second Annual Santillana National Spanish Spelling Bee in Albuquerque.

And so, judges declared Judith Villa, a fifth grader from Sunland Park Elementary in the Gadsden Independent School District in Anthony, N.M., and Joana Fernandez, an eighth-grader from Rio Rancho Middle School in the Rio Rancho Public Schools, to be tied for first place.

Nineteen students in fourth through eighth grade participated, representing their home states of California, Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin. And all of this year’s participants were first-timers, with the exception of one – last year’s winner. Students whose mother tongue is Spanish or who are learning the language were eligible to enter in the spelling bee.

Hosted by the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the event was organized by the New Mexico Association for Bilingual Education (NMABE) and the Alliance for Multilingual Multicultural Education (AMME).

David Briseño, NMABE Executive Director and National Spanish Spelling Bee Founder and Coordinator, said Saturday’s competition lasted three and a half hours, with the final two contestants battling it out for an hour and a half.

“The last two contestants did not misspell a word,” Briseño said. “We went through every word on the lists we prepared for the competition.” After 53 rounds, it was declared a tie.

Second place went to last year’s winner, Evelyn Juarez, from Carlos F Vigil Middle School in the Española Public School District in Española, N.M.

Third place went to Jose Daniel Lara Arévalo from Legacy Middle School in the East Central Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas.

Spanish words are relatively easier to spell than English words because groups of letters consistently produce the same sounds and the vowels typically are pronounced the same way, no matter their location within the word. However, students must also take into consideration Spanish diacritical marks, which makes the competition more challenging.

Last year, 11 students participated in the First National Spanish Spelling Bee. You can watch their fantastic journey, and learn more about some of the contestants and the spelling bee itself on the event’s official site.

NBC Latino congratulates all of the incredible young boys and girls who participated, as well as the National Spanish Spelling Bee organizers for celebrating the multiculturalism of America.

Students tie for 1st place at the 2nd National Spanish Spelling Bee   monica profile small education NBC Latino News

Monica Olivera Hazelton, NBC Latino contributor and  the founder and publisher of, a site for Latino families that homeschool, as well as families with children in a traditional school setting who want to take a more active role in their children’s education. She is the 2011 winner of the “Best Latina Education Blogger” award by LATISM.


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  2. IllinoisMinuteman says:

    So? I guess the US needs to change for it’s invaders. I would be thrilled if the spelling Bee was in English.

    1. Joe says:

      You are sooooo minute, man! LOL

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