Spanish culture celebrated during Cervantes Week

For the past four years, the Spanish Resource Centre at York University has celebrated Cervantes Week. This year, organizers offered lectures on Spanish literature of the Golden Age, a traditional Cervantes reading marathon and a flamenco music and dance performance.

Celebrations opened with three lectures by distinguished scholars in Spanish at Glendon College about the country’s Golden Age of literature. They spoke on the power of language, the construction of identities and the cultural interchange between Anglophone and Spanish communities.

David Rojinsky, a University of Toronto professor, focused on the beginning of the 16th century and a statement by humanist Elio Antonio de Nebrija (1441-1552, and shown at left), who said language has always been the empire’s companion. He wrote the first Spanish grammar in 1492 at the convergence of two historical events: the end of the Arab Empire and the beginning of Spanish territorial expansion. Rojinsky discussed the relationship between the official establishment of the Spanish language and the outcome of the Spanish Empire and reviewed the concept of power contained in language.

José Luis Chamosa, education attaché in Ottawa, explored the world of translation between Anglophone and Hispanic communities during the 16th and 17th centuries. Chamosa also pointed out the impact of chivalry and pastoral texts on the Anglophone community during that time, when Spanish influence on Anglophone culture was well established.

Special guest Pedro Bádenas talked about the development of imaginary literature set in Eastern Europe. In his comments about Voyage to Turkey, he argued that an increasing presence of Eastern culture in Spanish literature – the result of encounters with both Muslims and Orthodox Catholics – reinforced Spanish identity.

On April 1, the Spanish Resource Centre in collaboration with the University of Toronto Libraries organized a five-hour reading marathon. Participants read excerpts of works by Cervantes (right) and other writers of the Spanish Golden Age, and a series of poems dealing with the theme of peace – a small tribute to the victims of the terrorist attack March 11 in Madrid. A poem dedicated to Madrid’s victims was written and read by the Mexican poet Wendolyn Lozano.

Ignacio Sánchez de Lerín, consul general of Spain, read the first chapter of Don Quixote, following the Spanish tradition of uninterrupted reading of this work usually performed April 23 and 24, the anniversary of Cervantes and celebration of the Day of the Book. Readings continued with the last chapter of Don Quixote, a few of Cervantes’s Exemplary Stories, and poems by Garcilaso de la Vega, Jorge Manrique, Francisco de Quevedo, Góngora, Lope de Vega, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and Calderón de la Barca. It closed with poems by 20th-century Spanish writers Blas de Otero, Gabriel Celaya, León Felipe, Octavio Paz and Dámaso Alonso, mostly dealing with themes of peace, war and suffering.

About 40 Torontonians of a range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds attended the reading marathon, sponsored by Carol Moore, director of University of Toronto Libraries, Ignacio Sánchez de Lerín, Consul General of Spain, and Magdalena Aguinaga, director of the Spanish Resource Centre at York University.

A flamenco concert by guitarist Juan Tomás and a flamenco dance performed by Esmeralda Enrique’s Spanish Dance Academy completed Cervantes Week celebrations.