The multi-cultural aspects of the Spanish language were the focus of researchers and scholars from around the world at the 24th Conference on Spanish in the United States and 9th Conference on Spanish in Contact with Other Languages hosted March 6-9 by The University of Texas-Pan American.
"This is an established national and international conference that attracts experts on the field from universities across the United States, Europe and Latin America," said Dr. José Hernández, associate professor with the Department of Modern Languages and Literature. "All of the speakers and presenters have one thing in common and that is the study of the Spanish language as spoken throughout the Spanish-speaking world in contact with other languages."
During the conference, researchers from multi disciplines shared their findings related to U.S. Spanish and Spanish-speaking communities and on Spanish in contact with other languages and that spoken by bilinguals, who speak another language in addition to Spanish and whose Spanish-speaking skills are at different levels. In the Rio Grande Valley, more than 80 percent of the population reports that a language other than English is spoken in the home but language conflict is still prominent along the border, playing out in schools, hospitals, and sites of citizenship surveillance, the Spanish in the U.S. website points out. The border is also a place where languages come together into new modes of expression, the website states.
"An important aspect of the conference is that it doesn't only focus on what we call 'standard' Spanish, it focuses on any type of Spanish spoken by any bilingual speaker. In many ways, it re-evaluates the type of Spanish that we speak, particularly here in the Valley, because often times we tend to believe that the Spanish we speak is less than other parts of the Spanish-speaking world," Hernández said.
The approximate 150 participants offered more than 150 presentations during the conference on topics such as "Race-making and Latinos in the U.S. Census," "Code-switching in the Community," and "Processes of Identification and the Spanish Language on the U.S.-Mexico Border."
Among the guest speakers were Barbara Bullock and Jacqueline Toribio, who presented "Spanish in the U.S. - Developing an Open Linguistic Forum," and internationally renowned author Dr. Carmen Taffolla read poet Gloria Anzauldua's "How to Tame a Wild Tongue" as well as some from her own works.
The Spanish in the U.S. Conference has been held previously at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Indiana University, Hunter College, University of New Mexico, Florida International University, and University of Arizona, among other prominent universities.
Dr. Glenn Martinez, professor and chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literature, believes conferences such as these are important for the community and to UTPA students and faculty.
"It's important in academic circles and to anyone who is serious about the study of the Spanish Language in the U.S., whether it's from a linguistic, anthropological, philosophical, or sociological perspective," he said. "I can't think of any other area in the U.S. where Spanish is more important economically and educationally, and in terms of health care and politics, than the Rio Grande Valley."
Other sponsors of the conference were the UTPA Mexican American Studies Program, College of Arts and Humanities, Office of the Provost, Student Association for Medical Spanish, art village ON MAIN, L.L.C., and the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. For more information
about the conference, contact Hernández at (956) 665-3441.