By Jose Baig
Hispanic affairs correspondent, BBC Mundo
This Saturday, I am setting off on a two-week long trip across the United States with a simple goal in mind: to speak only Spanish during the journey.
Jose and Carlos are aiming to meet as many people as possible
I am not trying to achieve or break any record. I just want to see what it is like to cross the country without uttering a word of English.
I am travelling with Carlos Ceresole, a video producer for the Spanish American section of the BBC.
Our trip will take us from San Agustin, Florida, to Los Angeles, California. We will visit a total of eight states and 12 cities along the way.
The name of the project is "¿Hablas español?" (Do you speak Spanish?), and that is the question we will be asking everyone we meet.
In fact, that is the question I have asked everyone I have contacted while planning this trip. I must admit, though, that the other day I was talking to an immigration specialist in Tallahassee, Florida, and only realised she spoke Spanish 15 minutes into the conversation.
That was an interesting reminder of the purpose of this project and it also showed me that there are a lot more Spanish speakers in the US than one tends to think. It’s just a matter of asking: "Do you speak Spanish?"
Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in the United States. According to government figures, there are now some 42 million Hispanics in the US, some 14.5% of the population.
Immigration is set to be a key issue in 2008 presidential vote
After English, Spanish is the most widely spoken language and is studied by increasing numbers of non-native speakers.
Experts believe that even if no one else from Latin America were to emigrate to the US in the coming years, the Hispanic population would continue to grow at a faster rate than other minorities.
This includes African-Americans who constitute 12% of the population.
But all the indications are that the US will continue to attract many Latin Americans, both legally and illegally.
Immigration, already a controversial and divisive issue in the country, is set to be one of the hot topics in next year’s presidential election.
We are excited about this project, but are not too sure what to expect. Many people have written to us inviting us into their homes or businesses and saying that they want to meet us.
We are looking forward to that and we’ll try to meet as many people as possible. But will everyone be so welcoming when we ask them "¿Hablas español?"
In Nogales, Arizona, we want to tackle the issue of cross-border crossings. We would like to talk to people who have done it and to those who try to stop them.
The trip will finish in Los Angeles, where we expect to hold a debate on the impact of Spanish in American society.
Some of our readers have criticised the project saying that millions of people already live and travel across the US speaking only Spanish, and that they do so with very little or no money.
The idea of this trip is to talk to those people and to see how they do it.
I’ll be writing a daily blog as well as reporting on BBC Mundo Hoy, the BBC’s flagship radio programme in Spanish.
You can also view pictures of the journey in Flickr and if you want to contact us you can use this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about the tools we are using here
So come join us on this journey and let us ask everyone we meet: "¿Hablas español?"
Immigrants and Hispanics no longer just work in agriculture
Minority groups make up an increasing share of the population in almost every US state, according to figures released by the US Census Bureau.
Legal and illegal immigrants make up a growing portion of the population in 46 states and the District of Columbia, with California leading the field.
There are more than 35 million immigrants in the US – or 12.4% of the population, up from 11.1% in 2001.
Immigration is a big issue ahead of the autumn’s mid-term congressional polls.
California had the most born outside of the US at 27.2% of its population.
It was followed by New York, Texas and Florida as the states with the nation’s largest immigrant populations.
According to the American Community Survey, more than one in three residents living in Los Angeles (40.3%), San Jose (37.9%) and New York (36.6%) were not US citizens at birth.
US POPULATION FIGURES
Immigrants make up 12.4% of US population
California has largest migrant population with 27.2%
Hispanics increased as US largest minority group, at 14.4% of the population
Detroit (6.3%) and Indianapolis (6.7%) were large cities where the proportion of immigrants was half that of the national average.
Hispanics increased as the country’s largest minority group, at 14.4% of the population, compared with 12.8% for blacks.
South Carolina’s immigrant population has grown by 47% since 2000, more than any other state. The number of Hispanics grew by 48% in Arkansas, the most of any state.
Immigrants and Hispanics are attracted by a healthy economy that offers jobs requiring few skills, says Michael MacFarlane, South Carolina’s state demographer. "They are in all sorts of construction, food processing, service jobs, the whole spectrum, where they used to be primarily in agriculture," he told the Associated Press news agency.
At the other extreme, only 1.1% of West Virginia’s population was born outside the US while Mississippi, Montana and North Dakota had 2% or less.
Whites are a minority in four states – Hawaii, New Mexico, California and Texas – and the District of Columbia.
The figures published in the American Community Survey, conducted annually, will replace the 10-year census.
The survey does not take in the 3% of people who live in nursing homes, hospitals, universities, military barracks, prisons and other "group dwellings".