Countries Where Spanish is an Official Language

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If you were asked to list countries where Spanish as an official language, you may list Mexico or Spain. However, there are 18 other countries where Spanish is an official or de facto (most used) language. In fact, Spanish has the largest number of native speakers besides Mandarin Chinese. With 380 million native speakers, Spanish surpasses English for number of native speakers by over 100 million. 

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Spain sought to expand its land into the New World after Columbus discovered it in 1492. The conquistadores headed to America in 1494 after the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed between Portugal and Spain. This treaty gave Spain anything west of the Cape of Good Hope (west coast of Africa) and gave Portugal anything to the east with the exception of Brazil. It is for this reason that all but 3 countries in South and Central America speak Spanish.

With that in mind, take a look at the 20 countries that have Spanish as an official or de facto language. They are organized by continents and regions.

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Equatorial Guinea- a small country in central Africa, this country is named for its location on the Equator

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Caribbean Sea

Cuba- island that sits where the Carribean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean meet

Dominican Republic- on an island shared with Haiti

Puerto Rico- territory owned by the United States, both English and Spanish are official languages

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Central America

Costa Rica- means “rich coast” due to the amount of gold jewelry worn by the natives when discovered by Christopher Columbus

El Salvador- means “the Savior”, has 2nd highest level of equal income 

Guatemala- largest population in Central American

Honduras- means “depths”, high poverty index

Nicaragua- Spanish is de facto language, largest Central American country

Panamá- bridge between Central and South America, broke away from Colombia with the help of the United States Army who then oversaw the completion of the Panama Canal

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Spain- country where Spanish originated that colonized all other future Spanish speaking countries

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North America

Mexico- the 13th largest country by area, has over 126 million inhabitants, Spanish is de facto language

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South America

Argentina- Spanish de facto language, largest Spanish speaking country by area

Bolivia- has two capitals, a constitutional one (Sucre) and an executive on (La Paz) 

Chile- Spanish de facto language, a long strip of land with Andes mountains to the east and Pacific Ocean to the west

Colombia- follows only Brazil in its level of biodiversity, it is categorized as a “megadiverse” country due to so much biodiversity

Ecuador- named for its location on the Equator

Paraguay- 90% of the population also speaks a dialect of Guaraní in addition to Spanish

Perú- considered a megadiverse (biodiversity) country

Uruguay- Spanish is de facto language, stayed free after two different skirmishes between Spain and Portugal and then between Brazil and Argentina

Venezuela- one of the first countries to declare independence from Spain

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Was there a Spanish speaking country missing from the list? Perhaps from Central America? Belize does not recognize Spanish as its official language. Spanish is the de facto (accepted) language, but it is not officially recognized by the government as the official language of Belize. 

Other countries that where Spanish holds significant influence is in Andorra (microstate between Spain and France), Gibraltar (Southern tip of Spain belonging to Great Britain), and the United States (2nd to Mexico for the number of Spanish speakers).

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