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Somos y Estamos - February 2006

Newsletter of the Department of Spanish of Western Michigan University

The English Translation
(see Spanish version with photos)
February 2006

Dear Friends,

In this issue of Somos y Estamos we offer you a brief review of some of the happenings of the past year and invite you to help us look toward the new year.

Without a doubt, 2005 brought us a variety of good things. Spanish classes at all levels continued to be fully enrolled and the number of majors and minors reached new highs. The first class of Ph.D. students successfully completed their course work and comprehensive exams and have begun to write their dissertations. Other students, graduate and undergraduate alike, participated in conversation groups, film series, visits to local schools and a variety of traditional celebrations.

Professor Jorge Febles marked his 25th year of teaching at Western, Professor Carolyn Harris completed 20 years of service and Professor Benjamín Torres reached the 15-year milestone. Other faculty, younger perhaps, celebrated weddings (Professor Holly Nibert with Peter Post), births (Professor Michael Millar, father; Kathy Millar, mother; Marisol Millar, sister; Keenan Millar, new arrival), spectacular distance races (Professor Patricia Montilla) or glorious softball victories (the Mambo Kings).

There was travel a plenty, ranging from professional journeys to strictly pleasure. Dozens of students combined those two travel options in our study programs in Burgos, Querétaro and Santander. The faculty, in turn, presented the results of their research in such varied venues as Tegucigalpa, Puebla, León and Bremen. Others toured places we would all like to visit or returned to their native haunts to refresh their contact with local traditions, music and cuisine.

As for the city of Kalamazoo, 2005 will be remembered for the fabulous Kalamazoo Promise, a program financed by anonymous providential benefactors that will pay college tuition and fees for all graduates of the Kalamazoo public schools. We hope to see them at Western, of course. Another local event worthy of mention and admiration was the Kalamazoo Institute of Art’s exhibition of class figures crafted by Dale Chihuly. This festival of exquisite forms, astounding light and color, lasted through Dec. 31, providing a spectacular close to a year which had more than a bit of everything.

As of this point (February), 2006 seems to be shaping up as a year of motion, particularly on our campus. The chemistry building (in front of Waldo Library) and the art building (between the Miller parking ramp and Korhman Hall) continue to rise, and with their numerous floors and innovative contours, begin to change to the WMU skyline. Before construction is completed on these two new academic structures, renovation and expansion of Brown Hall will begin. This work will inevitably affect the students and faculty who use the building, which will remain closed for at least a year and a half, but it will result in better-than-new classrooms fully equipped for century XXI. Sprau Tower will not undergo changes. It has certainly undergone enough over the years, and there is probably no way it could be improved, so we will be at our customary stations during 2006. We look forward to your visit.

Then There Were the Mambo Kings

Since the glorious season of 2003 when the Mambo Kings won eight softball games and triumphed in the second division tournament of the Comstock League, acquiring a trophy taller than at least half of the players, times have turned somewhat sour for the team. Last year manager Febles began the season with abundant enthusiasm. The team had been rebuilt considerably. Jimmy Keller was again patrolling center-left field after having fulfilled three long years of military service. Big Jack VanEngen seemed likely to bat his monster homeruns with the usual frequency. Bryan Hill would be solid at shortstop. In the preseason workouts, Arnie Johnston appeared ready to place his pitches in exactly the right spots to produce dribblers and easy ground balls. Paul Laferriere gave evidence of newly-found power at the plate. Rob Vann, who in recent years had been on injured reserve due to a series of ailments stemming from a regrettable attack by the cat from Hell, was now recovered, faster than ever and again ready to be a long-ball threat. And Pete Post, at that time Holly Nibert’s fiancé, would add another dimension to the team: size, speed, steady hitting.

So favorably impressed was headman Febles that he boldly authorized a change in the team colors. The Princetonian orange that at one time had been imposed by ever-present spiritual capitain Benjamín Torres and which, in one of his typical moments of blindness, Febles had substituted for a pale green, now (at the recommendation of the très debonair Vann) became a splendid royal blue. In sum, everything seemed right for another glorious season for the Reyes del Mambo.

But beginning with the first game the outlook started turning grim. First, stalwart veteran Bigelow decided to take a month-long vacation in Spain. Then, in the third game, second baseman Michael Recchia--a player of extraordinary talent and inspirational team leader- broke an ankle in a bad slide. Manager Febles, in tears, accompanied him to the hospital, sensing that with Recchia’s injury the team’s chances were going up in smoke. It was so. No sooner had Recchia been placed the injured list when Big Jack VanEngen decided to join him. A torn muscle incapacitated him for almost the entire season. Next, another noticeable absence was produced by Pete Post, who got married to Holly and went on a honeymoon. Fortunately for the royal blue squad, Toñito (“big Tony”) Isea, the man with the unstoppable bat, did his thing for several weeks . . . until he announced that he was off to Spain in search of new experiences. His exit was sorely felt by the Mambo contingent, although the return of Bigelow helped the cause a bit, as did the consistent performance of Arnie Johnston, no doubt the best pitcher in the league, who always gave the Mambos a chance to win. Ben Jones, master painter, continued to demonstrate the great versatility which allows him to play both outfield and infield. Obviously, however, he committed a gross error when he purchased a new bat, the result being that he failed to make contact with the ball for several weeks. Amid so much Mambo pain, at least this year did not see the loss of the chronically-injured Miguel Braun. Incredibly, nothing happened to him in 2005--until he too went off to Spain, running out on the team.

That’s about it. Times were tough for the Mambos between May and August. But 2006 looks good. There is the hope of new blood (truth be told that in spite of their youthful appearance, Febles, Bigelow and Recchia are not even a shadow of what they never were anyway), harder practices and greater consistency and confidence. If all the pieces fall into place as they should, 2006 can bring another trophy to Sprau Tower. No wonder that prayers are already being heard in the hallways as players and fans yearn for the hope filled days of spring sun. Eleleu!

The First Ph.D. Dissertations

Ph.D. students Hedy Habra and Nuria Ibáñez Quintana will have the task and honor of writing the first doctoral dissertations in Spanish at WMU. Hedy did her undergraduate work in the School of Pharmacy at the Université St. Joseph Societé de Jésus in Beruit, Lebanon. She also completed two M.A. degrees in English at Western, one in literature and the other in creative writing. Nuria did her undergraduate work at the Universidad de Zaragoza, graduating with the degree of Licenciatura en Filosofía y Letras. After finishing the M.A. in Spanish in our department, Hedy and Nuria entered the new doctoral program in September 2003. They completed all requisites (reading knowledge of a third language, 36 hours of coursework) in April 2005. Last fall they passed the comprehensive written and oral exams and thus attained ABD status (all but dissertation). The theses they have proposed are ambitious, interesting and quite different. Hedy's dissertation, directed by Professor Benjamín Torres, focuses on the novelistic production of Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. Nuria's study, directed by professors Jorge Febles and Carolyn Harris, will analyze the work of several Spanish American and Spanish women playwrights. A more complete description is best left to the researchers themselves.

Hedy Habra: My research focuses on the importance of visual aspects in the creation of fictional realities in the novels of Mario Vargas Llosa, especially on the techniques the author uses to create and reproduce images through linguistic markers. The theories proposed by Brian McHale will provide the basis for my analysis. I will also utilize the ideas put forth by Umberto Eco, Peter Berger, Thomas Luckmann and Raymond Barthes, among others. According to Eco, the inner being of characters is related to imaginary worlds or "subworlds" which brush against the fictional world. I believe that in the works of Vargas Llosa these subworlds are projected in a visual animation as on a movie screen. I will study the way in which Vargas Llosa is able to transform these characters in producers of short subjects that not only illustrate the fictional plot but also add interpretative levels that force the reader to participate in the search for meaning.

Nuria Ibáñez: Theater has always fascinated me, although only as a spectator. I do not think I was blessed with a gift for acting. I am fascinated by the way theater allows us to go beyond the masks that we wear to try to fit into societal norms. Society constructs us as characters in a great theater of the world and defines us with a gender standard which, in my case as a women, leads us to interpret the role as prescribed for the second gender. I believe that theater, in a unique way, dares to reveal all these disguised messages, to dissect on the stage the situations created by the symbolic patriarchal order. This provides the essence of what I propose to do, to analyze a number of women playwrights from Latin America and Spain in order to see how women attempt to deconstruct their inherited scene, to unlearn the ingrained scripts, even if it be only for the purpose of taking control of our own illusions.

Needless to say, we wish both ABD's a pleasant and productive research experience.

Congratulations, So-long, Great to See You Again, Welcome

It is hard to say good bye, and fortunately we have no reason to do so. We know that the TA's who leave will soon return, at least for a brief visit. Congratulations to those who received their M.A. in 2005: Andrea Castelluccio, Lindsay Cherry, Taryn Corrigan, Luis Flores Portero, Sara Heil, Bryan Hill, Mariana Hernández, Abel Robles, Virginia Ruifernández, Silvia Ruiz Tresgallo, Steve Shubert, Sarah Smith, Diomedes Solano Rábago and Jacqueline Thibodeau.

It was a joy to see the TA's and DA's who returned to continue their work this year: Patricia Alberts, Alicia Arribas, Matthew Bourbina, Nuño Castellanos, Maribel Colorado García, Dianne Conn, Carmen Coronel, Jessica DeBoer, Hedy Habra, Nuria Ibáñez, Pilar López Castilla, Luis Loya, Claudia Márquez, Juan Carlos Martínez Belda, Rosario Mejorada González, Marcie Noble, Genevieve Watson and Mikela Zhezha.

We also were pleased to give a warm welcome this year to another excellent group of teaching assistants. These new TAs are: Robert Baxter (North Dakota), Amanda Bellino (Illinios), Tony Bourbina (Michigan), Berta Carrasco de Miguel (Spain), Christina Casarez (Michigan), Diego Espiña Barros (Spain), Brian Gunderson (Minnesota), Catherine Hebert (Michigan), Daniel Hopkins (Michigan), Paula Klein Jara (Mexico), Evelia Olvera Hurtado (Mexico) and Daphne Villatoro (Michigan).

To all these students, who are also teachers, we would like to express our appreciation for their enthusiasm, energy and dedication. There are no better students and teachers--anywhere.

Taking Querétaro to Heart

by Irma López, Program Director

In January of 2006 we celebrated our twelfth anniversary of traveling to Querétaro, a city now so familiar that we consider it our second home. In 2005 eighteen enthusiastic young people escaped the Michigan winter to enjoy the splendid climate of this provincial capital. This year fifteen new students are becoming a part of Mexican life. "I can't imagine my life without this experience," says Jessica Meyers, a program participant from 2004 who notes that in Querétaro "I really had time to live."

The opportunity for that type of life experience, together with the chance to perfect language skills, was what professors John Benson and Jorge Febles had in mind when they recommended that Western Michigan University establish a study program in this historical capital that the New York Times called "a glimpse into Mexico's soul." Jorge Febles, chair of the Department of Spanish, smiles when I ask him about the selection of the site, responding as the gifted story teller he is: "For the selection of Querétaro we are indebted to a bellhop in a hotel in Mexico City who told me that the perfect city for what we wanted was Querétaro." The intuition of the bellhop and the determination of the faculty to offer a high quality program that would fulfill numerous objectives were the factors that guided the search committee to the central part of the country. John Benson remembers that not only did the city offer all the desirable facilities, but also that the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro possessed all the resources needed to make the program function: “We found a very open-minded administration and faculty willing to help us develop a top quality program that would meet our needs.” Administration and faculty support have been consistently strong during these twelve years. The common goal of offering Western students the best possible experience has strengthened the initial academic and collegial relationship, allowing for the creation of other types of exchanges which continue to enrich our partnership.

The families of Querétaro who welcome our participants are another essential reason for the success of the program, and to them also we convey our sincere appreciation. Year after year students underscore the importance of the families with whom they stay. Jon Cadwallader (“Juanito” to his Mexican parents), recalls how his homestay with Señora Samia de la Vega in 2005 made him feel as if there were no major differences between the life he left behind in the U.S. and the new life he was assimilating in Mexico: "I have easily become accustomed to Mexican culture and I don’t know why. Actually, my life style here is very similar to the one I have in the United States. Also, my Mexican parents are like my parents in the U.S. The only thing I am missing here is a brother. If I had a brother here it would be like Michigan, except with sun every day.” For other students, contrasts between families have been more noticeable, as Christian Whitt points out when she talks about her stay with Señora Mary Elizabeth Delano: “Another blessing is my Mexican family. My family here is perfect for me. Before coming I thought that it would be difficult to live with a mother and father because during all my university years I had lived with my friends, not my parents. On the contrary, this has been an experience that I will not forget. There is more structure in the household here than in Michigan life style. It is more traditional here and I think that more American families should eat together like the Mexican families.” Although experiences in Mexican homes vary, students express similar feelings and they consistently express them in warm and affectionate terms.

These homestay experiences leave memories, in many cases life-long relationships for all involved. The Villafaña family and the Loyola family, who have participated in the program from its inception, have interesting thoughts on the benefits of the shared living experience. Señora Jesús Loyola notes the following: “I like to receive Western students because in general I have had enjoyable experiences . . . strong friendships which continue for years via Christmas cards, e-mails, and once in a while unannounced (but always pleasant) visits.” Señora Vicky Villafaña acknowledges that after the twelve-year relationship, “the Western program is now part of our family. She adds this about her adopted children: “I think that having had such good sons and daughters has been a double blessing. When I see in the news so many problems between the United States and Mexico--on account of immigration issues--I think that there is nothing that separates us, that we are one large family. When we receive the American kids I really think that they are ours.”

The special families who welcome us as one of their own, the UAQ and its friendly students, the sunny city to which we migrate each winter, all these combined factors make an impression on our young students. The impact is strong enough to have caused a number of them to return to Querétaro to work or to continue their studies. For example, Andrea Brown and Christine Clark are enrolled at the UAQ this semester. Andrea says this about her return: “Of course I wanted to return to continue improving my Spanish and to learn more about the culture. I want to use my Spanish and experiences in my business career, specifically with Daimler Chrysler. I think the experience here will help me get a job with DCX. Besides, Querétaro is like a second home for me. I love the people, the students at the UAQ (so friendly), my Mexican family and the city. I had the chance to go to another city in Mexico, but I know that my heart would not be content . . . I am queretana!”

This year is also special because Jessica DeBoer, a Ph.D. student in our department, is serving as assistant director in Querétaro. Jessica's role is to offer support to our undergraduate students during their stay in Querétaro. She is one of our best graduate students who has spent considerable time studying abroad, including a year in Spain and a semester in Ecuador as an undergraduate.

On a personal level the year 2006 is an important time. I am completing my eighth year as director of the program, my final year, at least for now. This assignment has been a labor of love and teamwork made possible by the good will and enthusiasm of those involved. I refer here to my colleagues in the Department of Spanish at WMU and those in the Facultad de Lenguas y Letras at the UAQ. To them I extend my appreciation. I also wish to thank Professor Patricia Montilla, who with great interest and dedication has accepted the role as new director of the program. Lastly (but not to a lesser extent), I express my appreciation to the students who have participated in the program during the past eight years. They have been the source of my energy and have inspired me to offer them a program that will become a vital and unforgettable part of their life.

We do not know what has become of that enlightened bellhop who gave Jorge the magic word "Querétaro." What we do know for sure is that Querétaro is now ours and that like Andrea Brown says: We are queretanos!

Congratulations and best wishes to all of those who have broadened their horizons by studying in Querétaro and especially to those we are there now: Noah Burton, Claire Cianek, Daniel Ebenhoeh, Anna Hamman, Sara Kling, Anya Letson, Christopher McFarland, Sarah McGuire, Melissa Pierce, Jeffrey Proctor, Amanda Roman, Ben Slager, Erin Taylor, Brad Zivov and Jessica DeBoer.

Summer in Santander

by Mercedes Tasende, Program Director

The Department of Spanish began a new summer program in Santander in 2005. The session started at the beginning of June and culminated successfully and with tearful farewells at the end of July.

During these two months the WMU students lived with families from Santander who not only gave them a warm welcome, but also the opportunity to enjoy paella, Spanish tortilla, fresh fish and numerous other typical Spanish dishes. The family cuisine was accompanied almost every day by a substantial late-afternoon snack consisting of a selection of cold cuts and a bottle of wine for the bon vivants, a cup of chocolate with churros for the non-imbibers.

But the students did more than simply eat. Between breakfast and the midday meal they went to class; between the midday meal and the afternoon snack they went to the beach, shopped at Zara or the Corte Inglés, took brief outings or went to the movies. Finally, between supper and breakfast they made the rounds and also slept a bit. In sum, a hard life.

Weekends were used to travel in Spain. The students visited many places near Santander such as Santillana del Mar, Comillas, Bilbao, the prehistoric caves of Las Monedas and El Castillo, and the Picos de Europa mountains. Some ventured a bit further and traveled to Madrid, Barcelona, Salamanca, Burgos and San Sebastián, among other cities. Three young women, taking advantage of low fares on Ryanair, even got as far as Italy for the weekend. And, of course, they couldn't miss the fiestas of San Fermín! In spite of the words of warning they received from the United States, almost all the students decided to run ahead of the bulls and, fortunately, all of them lived to tell the story to their friends, children and grandchildren. And let's not forget the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela! Like good pilgrims, the students observed the traditional ritual upon entering the cathedral: they struck their forehead on "O Santo dos Croques" and gave the apostal Saint James a hug. Besides, those who stayed for mass had the privilege of seeing the botafumeiro in action (a gigantic incense burner that swings in front of the altar from a rope tied to the ceiling, covering a wide arch with impressive speed), a spectacle normally reserved for the visit of the Pope, the King or an important personality.

Without a doubt, the summer or 2005 will always be an unforgettable experience for the ten students who participated in the program and for Professor Mercedes Tasende, who was fortunate to have the opportunity to share many good times with them.

28,946 = the number of students who have studied
Spanish at Western during the past 10 years

Burgos in the fall

by Carolina Harris, Program Director

Our program in Burgos has been a great success again this year. As soon as they arrived in the land of the Cid on August 6, the 16 Western students were welcomed by families in Burgos and began to fit into Spanish culture. Ten of the students liked their homes so well that they decided to spend all four months with those families. In October the remaining students decided to move to the San Agustín Residence Hall, where they shared rooms with Spanish students from different places in Spain. From what they tell me, all the students felt pleased with their decisions and believe that both housing options are good. Some mention the excellent food they enjoyed with their families, while those who went to the residence hall are happy to have met other university students.

María Simarro, a graduate from our M.A. program, was in charge of the intensive Spanish language classes, assisted by another capable young instructor, Ana María Aguilar. These courses, given during August and September, included afternoon classes in music, dance and theater communication. The students loved these activities with María and Ana. Some of them later wrote that they had enjoyed these classes so much that they came to forget that they actually were studying. All students made substantial progress in their use of the language. During the second part of the program (from October through mid-December) they were well prepared to take courses in art and history offered by several experts in those fields.

Many students took advantage of almost two weeks of vacation between the two sessions in order to travel through Spain and Europe. Italy was the most popular destination, and students were enthralled with Rome, Florence, Venice and other cities. Some went to Paris and others as far as Germany and Switzerland. One student told me that although she had greatly enjoyed her travels through Europe, she was happy to return to Spain where she could communicate well and where she felt at home.

Culture classes (art and history) were offered Monday through Thursday, leaving Fridays free for excursions. The art professors accompanied students on visits to places of artistic interest in the province of Burgos, and also in Madrid, Salamanca and Valladolid. Last year students were well prepared for these excursions, having done beforehand a good bit of research on the sites and items they were to see. Upon returning to Burgos they wrote about their impressions and what they had learned. Professor Lena Iglesias was so pleased with these papers that she sent me several so that I could see how much the WMU students had learned and read their insightful comments.

In sum, participants from 2005 believe that their stay in Burgos was a unique experience and that they will return to Spain soon. For additional information about the program in Burgos I recommend that you consult the Honors College thesis written by María Markus, a Burgos participant in 2004. Her paper is available online at It contains comments from some of the 2005 participants and links to their photos. Thank you, María, for an excellent report, and thanks also to those who wrote about their experiences. All of this will be very helpful to the new group that will study in Burgos in 2006.

Delving into Honduras

Five daring women faculty from the Department of Spanish attended the XV International Congress of Women’s Literature, held in Tegucigalpa, October 19-22. On October 18, doctors Carolyn Harris, Irma López, Patricia Montilla, Mariola Pérez de la Cruz and Mercedes Tasende came together in the Café Ibérico in Chicago for a Spanish meal before undertaking their journey to Central America. As well as providing delicious Castilian sustenance, this supper also functioned as breakfast for the next day since the early morning flight would not leave time for more than a quick latte and a blessing.

After arriving at the airport in the Honduran capital, the five academics utilized the free shuttle bus provided by the conference organizers to go downtown. They began their stay in the city with a lunch of authentic local fare consisting of vegetable and meat kebobs, fried plantains, tortillas and Honduran beer, all of which elicited their enthusiastic praise. To help digest lunch, the diners took a long walk through the commercial district and several surrounding residential neighborhoods. So far, everything was turning out wonderfully. The pre-academic part of the trip could not have been better.

The academic phase, for which our professors had spent months in preparation, began with some problems, followed by more problems. A student strike made it impossible to enter the university building that was to be the conference center. The organizers did their best to find another site adequate for literary deliberations, but their only option was not an ideal one. In an art center, well stocked with easels but entirely lacking for chairs, the presenters from Western and other universities strove to be heard over the horrendous automobile noise which flowed in through open (glassless) windows. Still, one has to admire the way in which the speakers (about 150 in number, including one of male gender) managed to impart their knowledge while sitting on the floor.

Following the literary sessions, not brief to be sure, our colleagues thought themselves deserving of a reward in the form of a weekend excursion. They would not be denied, and so, minutes after the last paper was read on Friday afternoon, they hired a taxi driven by a guy named Elvis and went to see the La Tigra Park, a beautiful natural preserve of varied and exotic vegetation. They all agree that this was the most impressive site they saw on their trip. So much the better, since the final lunch of the conference, an open-air affair scheduled for a different park, was drowned by a furious tropical storm (the washed out cookout was also marred by the fact that some stray dogs ate the meat).

We have been requested by the five oft-mentioned doctors not to reveal any of details of the return trip to Kalamazoo. They arrived home at three o’clock on Monday morning, having dutifully and honorably fulfilled their professional responsibilities. Needless to say, they all showed up punctually to teach their classes a few hours later. They say that they are ready for the next conference on women’s literature, this time in Puerto Rico. In that case, we wish another episode of happy professional travel to these doctors from Western as they continue to take their research to the most remote areas of Spanish America.

The Faculty

Man does not live by bread alone, nor are classes the sole nourishment for faculty. Besides teaching their courses, the department faculty were involved in other academic pursuits during 2005--also in some not-so-academic pursuits, to put it tactfully. Here is a sample:

John Benson used the first part of the year to clean up and out his office on the fourth floor and reinstall his stuff in his old office on the fifth floor, thus changing offices and jobs with Professor Jorge Febles, the new chair of the department. He used the following months to take several trips with his wife, one to Argentina, another to Colombia, another to Spain and Morocco (still with the same wife, let that be clear). Time between trips was dedicated to the study of the writings of multifaceted Colombian author David Sánchez Juliao, who has visited the department on two occasions in recent years.

Gary Bigelow also found a way to get to Spain, more for business than pleasure, he says. During summer vacation he worked on an English version of two works by Cervantes. He will now be able to use his translation of both pieces, La cueva de Salamanca and El viejo celoso, in the course on literature and film that he gives for non-majors. Professor Bigelow has also begun a translation of a book of memoirs by Gregorio Martín.

Michael Braun made two pedagogical presentations, both of them having been selected for the “Best of Michigan” award by the Michigan World Language Association. The titles of the papers (Poetry, No Way! But Bécquer, Give Me More! and Ken and Barbie Do the Preterite and Imperfect) allow one to imagine the innovative focus that Professor Braun brings to the topics he teaches. In order to further stimulate this creativity, Miguel made a summer trip to Spain in search of new sources and teaching materials. He went to old places, of course: Madrid, Sevilla, Santander, Burgos and Palencia. Upon returning, he redecorated his office/tourist bureau, transforming that corner of fourth-floor Sprau into a branch of the UN or the OAS. Inside, one finds hanging from the ceiling the flags of all the Spanish-speaking countries. Besides contemplating the flags, visitors are invited to sample a delicious Carlos V chocolate bar, courtesy of Professor Braun.

Jorge Febles barely had time to move into his new office and begin his duties as department chair before heading to a conference on Spanish American theater in Puebla where he read a paper titled “Texto y canción, canción y texto: el dúo Corrales-Vera en El vestido rojo.” After the conference, accompanied by his wife, he continued south to the Caribbean and the ancient Mayan cities of Yucatán. Space does not allow for even a summary of Professor Febles’ other activities (very numerous papers and publications), but we should mention his role as organizer of the sessions on Spanish American literature for the huge conference of the Popular Culture Association in San Diego, as well as his work as co-editor of the journal Caribe. In addition, as a representative sample of his many substantial contributions to scholarship in his field, we note the new book that he has edited. “Into the Mainstream: Essays on Spanish and Caribbean Literature and Culture” will be published this year by Cambridge Scholars Press.

Robert Felkel again offered his extraordinary course on Don Quijote, but in 2005 he did it twice, one course in English and another in Spanish, in order to properly mark the 400 year anniversary of the publication of the masterpiece. Another pleasant experience for Professor Felkel was the trip to Italy that he took with his wife and a group of Latin students from Loy Norrix High School. We regret to report (although we are happy for Bob) that next year the department will be left without Don Quijote because this master teacher will be on sabbatical leave completing his manuscript “A Tour of Don Quixote.”

Carolina Harris enjoyed the journey that she and her colleagues made to Tegucigalpa for the conference of the International Association of Women’s Literature. There she presented a paper titled “Metateatro y auto-definición en la obra de Yolanda Pallín.” She also has pleasant memories of a trip to Italy in June. Along with her travel companions (the Felkels) and the Loy Norrix Latin students, Professor Harris marveled at the architecture of the Roman Empire and savored the culinary treats of modern Italy. The summer was also long enough for her to do volunteer work with her church group in Quito and, of course, to lead our students to their study program in Burgos.

Antonio Isea was pleased to accept the invitation he received to participate in the Sexta Bienal de Literatura Mariano Picón Salas, an event sponsored by the Universidad de los Andes (Mérida, Venezuela) and the embassies of Spain, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia. At that prestigious forum Professor Isea presented a paper on the narrative of novelist César Cirinos. He also was pleased to accept an invitation to write the prologue for the most recent novel by that same Venezuelan writer from the state of Zulia, De las mías de mío Caribe, published by Monte Avila Editores in Caracas. In addition to making several trips to Venezuela, Professor Isea visited Madrid, Burgos, Sevilla and other cities in Spain.

Irma López was part of the Western contingent that collected so many interesting experiences during the trip to the literary conference in Tegucigalpa. The paper that she read there is titled “Historiografía, memoria y subjetividad en la novelística de Mayra Montero.” Not withstanding all the new things that she discovered in Central America and all the pleasant places and times that she relived in her beloved Querétaro, in 2005 Professor López was most captivated by Colombia. In this first encounter with South America Irma was guided by her enthusiastic Colombian friend, Seidy Flórez, who was happy to show her the best of Bogotá, Cartagena, and the coffee lands of the central spine of the Colombian Andes. Without going into detail, suffice it to say that the Mexican professor was delighted with Colombia.

Michael Millar, besides becoming a father for the second time, he experienced in 2005 the publication of his first book: Spaces of Representation: The Struggle for Social Justice in Post-war Guatemala. Last year he also published an article in the journal Confluencia, authored another that was accepted by Latin American Theater Review and presented a paper on pedagogy at Cleveland State University. He impatiently and enthusiastically awaits the next conference of the Latin American Studies Association in Puerto Rico where he will deliver another paper.

Patricia Montilla was another department researcher to participate in the Tegucigalpa conference on literature written by Hispanic women. The paper she gave there was titled “Crueldad, violencia y sublevación en la narrativa breve de Ana Gloria Moya.” She presented another paper (“Erotic Oneirism and Surrealist Subversion in Matías Montes Huidobro’s Esa fuente de dolor) at the annual meeting of the Popular Culture Association in San Diego, a conference for which she also served as co-director for the sessions on Latin American and Caribbean literature. Her essay titled “The Island as Mainland and the Revolving Door Motif: Contemporary Puerto Rican Literature of the United States” will soon be published in the book A Companion to U.S. Latino Literature, edited by Carolota Caulfield and Darien Davis. These research activities did not leave much time for running, so in 2005 the captain of las tortugas was forced to lower her time in the marathon (see “The fastest tortuga”).

In 2005 Holly Nibert received tenure at Western, was promoted to Associate Professor of Spanish, authored an article, got married, purchased a home and signed a contract with Prentice Hall--although perhaps not in that order. The article, which has just been published, is titled “The Acquisition of the Phrase Accent by Beginning Adult Learners of Spanish as a Second Language.” The marriage with Pete Post was celebrated at a church in downtown Kalamazoo, followed by a splendid reception at the Kalamazoo Institute of Art, followed by a honeymoon in Spain and Italy. The contract with Prentice Hall is to co-author the fifth edition of ¡Arriba!,a first-year Spanish text used at a large number of universities. All in all, a memorable year for Professor Nibert.

The year 2005 will also be a memorable one for Pablo Pastrana-Pérez, For the first time in sixteen years he spent Christmas in Spain, but not before presenting his paper at the XXXV Simposio Internacional de la Sociedad Española de Lingüística in León. Previously, at the beginning of the year, he had given a paper at the annual conference of Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Tempe. He took advantage of that trip to see the Grand Canyon. Professor Pastrana’s article “El Cléomades/Clamades: tradición, traducción y transmisión de un texto franco-español” was included in a volume of studies published in Lisbon while another article (“La donzella Teodor”) was accepted for a collection dedicated to Castilian writers of the XIV century. As if that were not enough, during the summer Professor Pastrana collaborated with Professor Catherine Julien from the Department of History to submit an NEH grant proposal.

Mariola Pérez de la Cruz, another member of the group of five daring researchers from fifth-floor Sprau who made their way to the conference in Tegucigalpa, presented a paper titled “Concha Romero: teatralidad e historia. La mujer y la Iglesia.” She also contributed an extensive bibliography to the book Obras escogidas de Carlos Muñiz, published recently in Spain. As in previous years, Professor Pérez de la Cruz organized the Hispanic Film Festival and also coordinated numerous other extracurricular activities. She made several trips to Spain with her family, as is her custom.

“La mujer marimacho en los cuentos de Emilia Pardo Bazán” was the title of the paper read by Mercedes Tasende at the now-famous literary conference in Honduras. Among other things, she also wrote an article for an anthology of essays on Juana I of Castile, to be published by Bucknell University Press. Professor Tasende dedicated much time to the organization of the department’s first summer program in Santander. Besides overseeing the selection process and campus orientation sessions, program director Tasende accompanied the students to Santander where she offered a course on Spanish culture. She also traveled to Galicia on several occasions, of course.

Benjamín Torres-Caballero can be held responsible for the death of more than a few trees. His edition of Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá’s first novel, La renuncia del héroe Baltasar, has just been published by Fondo de Cultura. His book on another work by the same writer, Para llegar a la isla verde, is in press at the Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico. Professor Torres had one article published, and another was accepted for publication in Into the Mainstream, a collection edited by Jorge Febles. That is a lot of paper for one year, but it is comforting to know that those trees have not died in vain.

“Una derivación transcódica al nivel morfológico en el español de los Païses Catalans y el papel del conocimiento lingüístico en su génesis” is the title of the paper given by Robert Vann as invited lecturer at the First International Colloquium on Spanish in Catalan-speaking Territories, held at the University of Bremen. An article by Professor Vann on the Spanish spoken in the Países Catalanes was published in the volume Variedades lingüísticas y lenguas en contacto en el mundo de habla hispana (AuthorHouse, Bloomington). On a less academic note, we note that Professor Vann had notable highs and lows in 2005. The lows would be the visits to the emergency room following his overly enthusiastic play for the Mambo Kings. The highs would be the rides at Disney World where he also played, fortunately well, accompanied by wife and daughters. We are relieved to report that Professor Vann, although he may miss the next softball season, is indeed sufficiently recovered from his sports injuries to be able to return to Disney World.

Elena’s Place in the Tower

by Jorge Febles

For those of us who labor in the increasingly pristine and luxurious confines of Sprau Tower there is at least one thing we can count on, and that has been particularly important this year. That is the indispensable presence of Elena, our incomparable administrative assistant, who from her tiny vantage point observes the comings and goings of the Spanish Department, offering her assistance to all of us who desperately flock to her refuge on the fourth floor. For more than a decade Elena teamed with John Benson to guide the department on the proper course. Last year, however, teammate Benson decided that number thirteen (the number of years he had been our chair) was bad luck for everyone except him and hung up the proverbial gloves. Instead of continuing to head the department together with Elena, he chose to travel around Mexico, Spain and Colombia with Seidy and then return to the classroom this January.

Well, as a result of Benson’s exit, I was put in the precarious position of replacing him as department chair, at least for a year. Fortunately for me and for everybody who works on the fourth, fifth and eighth floors of Sprau, and also in the drab basement of Brown, our Elena has been here for us, always faithful, always cheerful, always able to steer us down the right path. We have seen a few potholes since Benson left the office, but none sufficiently large enough to affect the progress of the department. And here we are, with Elena driving and me pushing from behind whenever possible to achieve by any and all means the continued success of our Spanish programs. So when you stop by to see us--as we hope you will do the near future--go first to Elena’s place. That’s where everything begins in the Spanish world of Sprau.

José Santamaría Joins Our Most Distinguished Group

In October of last year, at the recommendation of the Department of Spanish, the College of Arts and Sciences honored banker José Santamaría with the Alumni Achievement Award. José graduated from Western Michigan University in 1988 with majors in Spanish and business, then subsequently earned his master’s degree in business administration. At present, José is president for marketing at Irwin Union Bank in Kalamazoo. There he is responsible for financial specialists who manage funds worth the tidy sum of 125 million dollars. José’s rise in the world of finance has been swift, as was noted in the article “Business Leaders under 40”, published last year in Business Review Western Michigan. In addition to his professional activities, José has had an active and distinguished role in a great number of charitable causes, among others the following: Leadership Kalamazoo, Drug Treatment Court Education, Borgess Visiting Nurses and Hospice Services, and Kalamazoo Area Housing Corporation.

José Santamaría was a most worthy representative of our Department of Spanish at the ceremony organized by the College of Arts and Sciences to recognize its most distinguished alumni. His name fits perfectly with those of Steve Kokmeyer, Tom King and Tim Statler, the three previous award recipients from our department. These four aces will be joined by many more in future years.

Thank You Very Much

Many of you have had the thoughtfulness and generosity to send donations during the past year. Although we have sent you all an individual note, we would like to again express to you, collectively, our most sincere gratitude. The funds that have been contributed allowed us to give numerous scholarships and awards, both for study abroad as well as in Kalamazoo. The students and the professors are grateful.

If you have the kindness to repeat your generosity in 2006, or to begin it, please remember to make checks payable to:

WMU Foundation
1903 West Michigan Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Also, you can indicate on the check memo line if you would like your donation used for one of the specifed funds (Herb B. Jones Student Support Fund, the Cervantes Circle and the Sor Juana de la Cruz Circle) or for another purpose.

Congratulations! Scholarship and Award Recipients of 2005

Students are the essence of the university. They are of every type, age and talent, and they all contribute to the formation of an optimal learning environment. To all who enroll in our classes, we appreciate your interest in learning Spanish. Those who have distinguished themselves in their studies are too numerous to mention here, so we will consider the following students as representatives of their peers.

Congratulations to Dianne Conn (Ortonville), Departmental Presidential Scholar, as well as to all the other recipients of scholarships and awards, and to their family members, classmates and friends who share in their accomplishments.

Travel/Study Abroad Awards in Spanish

Brock Brockway (Kalamazoo)
Megan Burnley (Pullman)
Bryan Ford (Kalamazoo)
Emily Kotarski (Dorr)

Emily Krajewski (Battle Creek)
Stacey Marker (Kalamazoo)
Kate Roelofs (Kalamazoo)
Mary Zemlick (Portage)

The purpose of these awards which are funded by the department is to support students in study abroad. In 2005 the Department was able to present eight awards of $500 each. We are very grateful for the support of Shelby and Ruth Wheatley, whose generosity has made possible the awarding of most of this year's scholarships.

Spanish Departmental Awards

Scott Brown (Ypsilanti)
Nicholas Dombrowski (Whitehall)
Natalie Contreras (Kalamazoo)
Kelly Otterbein (Coopersville)
Rebekah Friesen (Troy)
Kristina Sessoms (West Bloomfield)
Joanna Peszko (White Lake)
Erin Farmer (Saline)
Jaime Biggs (Homer)
Timothy Olson (Clinton Township)

Premio Octavio Paz
Premio Jorge Luis Borges
Premio Joan Coromines
Premio Rosalía de Castro
Premio Inca Garcilaso de la Vega
Premio María Moliner
Premio Suzanne M. Wheatley
Premio Alfonso X el Sabio
Premio Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Premio Antonio de Nebrija
These awards (books, for the most part) were acquired with funds donated to the department. Our sincere appreciation to the many people who have made donations to the department.

Memorial Scholarships

Maureen Osbonre (Delton)
Donna Schnake (Grosse Isle)
Liza Brockway (Kalamazoo)
Amanda Bellino (Geneva, IL)
Lindsey Cherry (Saginaw)
Taryn Corrigan (Portage)
Herb B. Jones Scholarship
Herb B. Jones Scholarship
Mathilde Steckelberg Scholarship
Lori Beth Pattison Scholarship
Sue C. Mardis Scholarship
Sue C. Mardis Scholarship
The Herb B. Jones Scholarships ($400) honor Dr. Jones, professor extraordinaire, Spanish Section Head for nearly two decades, and the first professor of Spanish to receive the prestigious WMU Alumni Award for Teaching Excellence (1972).

The Mathilde Steckelberg Scholarship ($1000) is supported by funds donated by the late Ms. Steckelberg, Professor of Latin and Chair of the Language Department at Western.

The Lori Beth Pattison Scholarship ($1500) honors our former student and university professor of Spanish. The scholarship is awarded annually to the Spanish major considered the best student of literature. Our sincere appreciation to Dr. Dale Pattison and his family.

The two Sue C. Mardis Scholarships ($1250 each) were given in memory of Ms. Mardis, who taught Spanish and French in the public schools. She was a strong advocate of study abroad. These awards for study in a Spanish-speaking country are made possible by funds donated by Bonnie Mardis.

Ruth Y. Kirby Scholarships in Spanish

April Bingham (Kalamazoo)
Alena Clark (Grand Haven)
Molly Gauthier (Ada)
Jessica Hendren (Clarkston)
Erin Kidman (Cassopolis)
Laura Phelps (Farmington Hills)
Patricia Timmons (Portage)
Jessica Thornton (Southfield)
Erica Wade (Kalamazoo)
Julie White (Ludington)
Lacey Wylie (Wyoming)
These scholarships of $1000 each are awarded from the funds donated by Ruth Y. Kirby. Ms. Kirby taught foreign languages at Western and in the public schools in Kalamazoo and Portage. The scholarships she established may be used either for study on campus in Kalamazoo or for study abroad.

President's Award and Scholarships for Study Abroad

Andrew Drenth (Cedarville) **
Emily Freeman (Holt)
Lindsay Gwyther (Rutland, MA)
Anna Hamman (Greenville)
Charity Manfield (Mattawan)
Tessa Ziebarth (Lawton)
These scholarships funded by the university, were established for students of foreign language by former president Diether Haenicke. The Pesident's Award** has a value of $2500 and the President's Scholarships are $2000. We are grateful for the vision and support of Dr. Haenicke.

Outside the Campus Classroom

by Mariola Pérez de la Cruz

Fall semester 2005 was full of extracurricular activities for our students, our instructors and even for the smallest Spanish students who get started at the age of six, as they do at Parchment Central Elementary School. Two of our graduate students, Berta Carrasco y Pilar López-Castilla, took a bit of Spanish culture to that school where Spanish is taught in the first grade. Twenty-five seven-year-olds raised their arms, tapped their shoes and clapped their hands to the rhythm of sevillanas (flamenco song and dance music) a few days before eating Thanksgiving turkey. The youngsters liked the activity so much they requested an encore. They got it two weeks later, this time with guitar music added, and they gleefully repeated the flamenco experience.

The smallest students were not the only ones who had the opportunity to use Spanish outside the traditional setting. The older students could attend three different Spanish conversation tables each week: Tuesdays at 3:00 in 2012 Brown Hall with Claudia Márquez, Wednesdays at 7:00 in the Bernhard Center with Pilar López-Castilla, and Thursdays at 1:00 with Robert Baxter. In these groups they could see and do almost anything: the newest video by Shakira, the latest news from Latin America, immigration problems in the U.S., how to make shredded paper and piñatas. And for a dash of flavor, students also learned how to prepare “pico de gallo” salsa and other Mexican recipes. Not to be forgotten was salsa as a dance, merengue too, in which students received instruction from our Latin American teaching assistants.

Students marked the coming of autumn and Halloween by attending the Hispanic Film Festival horror picture shows: Tesis (Oct. 25), Los otros (Oct. 27), and El espinazo del Diablo (Oct. 31). Of course the authentic Latin American tradition around this time of the year (Nov. 1 or 2) is the celebration of All Saints Day or the Day of the Dead, depending on the country. This custom was observed with all its color and candles on the altar for the dead constructed to acquaint Spanish students with one of the oldest traditions of the Hispanic world. Students helped put up the altar, dedicated to Frida Kahlo, and learned the meaning of each one of the objects on it.

In brief, during the fall semester faculty and students were involved in numerous cultural activities outside the classroom, activities that allowed them to learn things not found in books. They had a good time practicing Spanish in a different environment, without tests, notes or homework. We hope for a repeat of that enthusiasm and interest during the spring semester.

Somos y Estamos

A publication of the Department of Spanish
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008-5338

tel 269 387-3023 ~ fax 269 387-3103

Editor: John Benson

Contributors: John Benson, Jorge Febles, Carolyn Harris, Irma López,
Mariola Pérez de la Cruz and Mercedes Tasende

Layout and Design: Elena Gaudio

The Tortugas (Turtles)

After a year of rest, the Tortugas returned in 2005 to run the Campus Classic, a five kilometer race through the WMU campus which takes place each October during Homecoming weekend. Congratulations to these Tortugas: Daniel Hopkins, Luis Loya, Juan Carlos Martínez Belda, Patricia Montilla, Daniel Smith and Marta Grabowski Tasende. Appreciation is due to Dr. Mercedes Tasende, official team photographer, and to Christina Casarez, Maribel Colorado, Claudia Márquez and Rosario Mejorada, all of whom supported the team with their voices and signs along the notorious Gilkison hill climb.

The Fastest Tortuga

As in the case of people, not all Tortugas run the same. For example, Dr. Patricia Montilla stands out not only in her role as team captain, but also as a distance runner in her own right. After her first 5K race (Campus Classic 2002), the speedy professor doubled that distance by moving up to the 10K in the Campus Classic 2003. That same year she ran another 10K race, this one in New Orleans, and then increased her distance again by participating in half marathons (about 13 miles) in both Kalamazoo and Chicago. Not content to do things half way, captain Montilla made the jump to the full marathon in 2004, covering the 26.2 miles of the Chicago event in four hours and 16 minutes. She improved that time considerably in the Chicago Marathon 2005 when she finished in three hours and 43 minutes. That excellent mark qualified Patricia for the famous Boston Marathon to be held April 17. Congratulations and best of luck to the fastest Tortuga who has run so far in such a short time.

Greetings to the Eternally Young People of this Wide World

We remember our friends and former students, now scattered around the entire globe, as if they had just finished their final exams yesterday. Many of them have visited us in Sprau and many others have e-mailed or called. Thank you. We like to know where you are, how you are, what you are doing. These friends are so numerous and so dear that we hesitate to mention them for fear of forgetting at least a few names. Perhaps a better idea is to focus in on some places.

We remember those who have returned to Querétaro, to Burgos and other sites in Mexico and Spain.

We remember those friends who now teach or study in other universities: the ones in GVSU, in MSU, in UM, in WSU, in Indiana-South Bend, in Ball SU, in the U. of Chicago, in Madison, in UNC-Chapel Hill, in Penn State, in Boston College, in Washington U, in UC-Boulder, in Cochise College, in Grinnell, in Skidmore, in Wake Forest, in the Complutense, in the Tech-Qro, in Lille.

We remember the many friends who teach in secondary and high schools, in language centers or international studies institutes: those in Portage and Kalamazoo, in Grand Rapids and Hartford, those who work in so many other schools throughout Michigan that it would be impossible to mention them, those who are in Tulsa, San Miguel de Allende, Barcelona and Santiago de Chile.

We remember the doctors, the nurses, the lawyers, the business people, the executives, the interpreters, the retirees--in Michigan, Minnesota, Hawaii and Florida.

To all of you, the eternally young of spirit and heart, brothers and sisters of this wide world, we send our warmest greetings and best wishes. For all of you, amigazos, un fuerte abrazo, a really big hug, from your Department of Spanish.