Gatopardo has a cool personal essay this month from the guy behind the campaign Acentos Perdidos, or Lost Accents. A Spaniard working for a PR firm in Mexico, he began posting accent marks where they were missing on public signs in Mexico City, and publicizing his work, complete with grammatical explanations, on a blog. The response was, he tells us, enormous, and he had copycat grammarians joining the effort around the Spanish-speaking world.
One thing you quickly notice while learning Spanish as a second language is that accents are very useful in making the leap from written comprehension to oral fluency. Native speakers, of course, learn to speak first and then write, so the rules of the accent are, paradoxically, less a natural part of a native's linguistic education than they are for a foreigner. Indeed, even educated Mexicans typically regard accents as an annoying anachronism to be ignored whenever possible, a tendency reinforced by the fact that the overwhelming majority of writing for Mexicans 30 and under comes in ruleless media like Facebook and instant messaging. Much as I love accent marks, one wonders if they will be around at all in 100 years.
One brief example of this trend that I ran across this morning: the Spanish captions to this photographic essay in Foreign Policy, presumably written by the Mexican author, include at least four names that should be accented but are not.