ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (Reuters) - "Bizantinismo. B-I-Z ..." Evelyn Juarez repeated to the panel of six judges and then flawlessly spelled it to win the first national Spanish-language spelling bee in the United States.
The 13-year-old Juarez, a seventh grader from Santa Cruz, New Mexico, won the two-hour contest on Saturday by battling with 11 contestants assembled from across the country at Albuquerque's National Hispanic Cultural Center.
"Our spelling contest was incredibly rigorous," David Briseno, the executive director of New Mexico's Association for Bilingual Education, the group who arranged the contest, said on Sunday.
The two winners battled for an hour, spelling about 25 words each, before Juarez emerged as the winner. The winning word, Bizantinismo, means "of or relating to the ancient city of Byzantium."
"The participants had to not only spell the words correctly but also identify capitalization and accent marks. I am proud of all of them," Briseno said, adding he had wanted the bee to gather together bilingual students.
"We wanted to celebrate families who want to raise their children to speak English and Spanish proficiently," he said.
Runner-up was 14-year-old German Rojero of Los Lunas, New Mexico, who was knocked out by misspelling "kanindeyuense," which translates to "someone from a Paraguayan territory."
"When I heard that word, I said 'Oh, wow -- that's a tough one," Briseno said.
(Reporting by Eric Johnson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)