Successful Spanish Fair

Crowds turned out for an immersion in Spanish language and culture, complete with songs and meaningful discussions.

By Barbara Melendez

USF News

 

TAMPA, Fla. (Mar. 7, 2012) – It was an immersion in language and culture.

 

Spanish was the language. Native songs from Venezuela and other Hispanic cultures filled the room. There were discussions around immigration, study abroad and a look at the Hispanic influence upon America.

 

Last week's Spanish Fair at the University of South Florida made a very strong case for why learning Spanish makes sense - now more than ever.

 

Large portions of the audience were Spanish speakers, either by background or as students at varying levels of proficiency. People from all walks of life stopped by during the day to get information on course offerings and opportunities to study abroad - of which there was plenty.  There was a steady stream of visitors who packed the room throughout the day-long program.

After opening remarks from the fair organizer, World Languages Associate Professor Pablo Brescia, who serves as Spanish graduate coordinator and director of the Argentina Study Abroad Program, there was an inspiring address on Spanish in the Global World by María Crummett, associate vice president for Global Affairs, USF World. Then USF faculty Alejandro de la Pava, Mariam Manzur Leiva and Carla Zayas Santiago introduced the gathering to USF's various Spanish programs. They repeated their presentation in the afternoon as well.

Urging the audience to reconsider its ideas about immigration, Oscar Ostoy and Joe Parker, from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, talked about the plight of farm workers in Florida and the former mayor of Sarasota, Kelly Kirschner gave his take on immigration. To provide some context, he showed a video presentation from Univision with informative statistics. 

Notable facts from the video: if the Hispanic population in the United States were a country, it would be the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world and it constitutes the 15th largest consumer economy in the world.  One out of every six people in the United States and one out of every four babies born each year is Hispanic, that’s 50 million strong and growing by one million people every year.  While Spanish-speaking people are moving comfortably between two languages, the same cannot be said for those whose first language is English.

The communications giant is reminding advertisers to pay attention to this emerging market. Kirschner’s intention as the president of Unidos Now, an organization devoted to immigration reform, used the information to remind the audience about the valuable contributions of Spanish-speaking immigrants. In addition to speaking, he and Ostoy and Parker presided over information tables, handed out brochures and spoke with attendees.

Moving into the realm of culture, Gabriel Cartaya, introduced the audience to his publication, Revista Literaria SurcoSur.  It’s a literary magazine that offers readers and writers in Tampa Bay the opportunity to enjoy the arts and literature of the Hispanic world.

In addition to the serious side of Spanish language and culture, the program included a performance by Venezuelan musicians Juan and Vicente Ayala who played traditional songs from their homeland and other regions.  Jacob Senkbeil shared his humorous musical compositions as well. And no program on Spanish culture would be complete without salsa.  Jesús González and Melissa Masters performed a dance number to music by the late renowned singer Hector Lavoe.

Students from Yudiely Paneque's Spanish conversation class bravely stood before the audience to perform humorous skits they wrote and produced that showed their aptitude in Spanish, using skills they gained at USF. Their confidence and clarity were impressive as they acted out situations where knowing how to speak Spanish was critical - like planning a trip to Mexico and Jamaica and ordering food in a restaurant.

María Asunción Lopez and Edward Quiñones, representatives from Alianza Hispana de la Bahia de Tampa, a non-profit organization based in Seffner that promotes culture, education and leadership, talked about the importance of becoming active in local organizations. Dr. Angel Luciano, from USF’s Morsani College of Medicine explained the importance of Spanish for the medical sciences. Jason Old and Tony Rosado described the role fútbol (soccer) plays in building communities.

The final presentation was made by Pablo Barranco and Rodrigo Vallejo from the Mexican Consulate in Orlando.  They talked about opportunities in Mexico for people who speak English and Spanish.

Brescia, who kept the program running smoothly throughout the day, said, "I was very pleased to see such a great turnout from the USF community and the Tampa Bay community.  I think they left with a better understanding of how much we have to offer in great language and literature courses and opportunities to study all over the Spanish-speaking world.  This was a terrific example of how global USF really is."

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.