We, Hispanists, are a scary, subversive bunch. We might look quite innocuous with our books, class plans, and dictionaries, but do not let that peaceful exterior fool you: we are a threat to society. The only way to combat our pernicious influence on the minds of young, impressionable students is to ban us from campuses altogether.
This is how this particular Hispanist spent her day: Before classes began at 9:30 am, I worked on creating an oral exam for my students in the Intermediate Spanish course. I want to include a short Argentinean cartoon on Mafalda, which is funny but also useful in that it contains precisely the kind of vocabulary and grammar structures that we have been covering in class. Then, I taught a class on Lazarillo de Tormes, which is a text that students never fail to enjoy. It was a great class, we laughed, we analyzed our favorite passages, students asked questions. Even though some of the students find it hard to express themselves as well as they would like (especially about a difficult XVIth century text like this one), they still try because the texts we read seem to excite them. At the end of the class, I promised that next time we would watch a short documentary on Cervantes, which the students are very eager to do.
After that I had my office hours during which I talked to a disabled student and discussed the options we have available to make his progress in the course as comfortable as possible. Then, we wrote a composition in my Intermediate language course. I think I finally managed to find a very successful topic for a composition at this level because for the first time in my experience of teaching the course students didn't try to finish as early as they could and rush out.
After I taught my classes, I went over Stephen Gilman's book on Galdos and discovered that, contrary to what I'd expected, my reading of this writer is not that different from Gilman's. Then I went to the library and looked up a few more critical sources for my research project. After I got home and had dinner, I stayed in bed reading Eduardo Mendicutti's brilliant and hilarious novel Una mala noche la tiene cualquiera that a colleague (yet another subversive Hispanist) suggested to me. The book contains a great number of delicious colloquial expressions in Spanish, many of which I didn't know. So I made a list of them and devised a plan as to how I will introduce some of these expressions to my students in a fun and productive way.
This was the end of my subversive Hispanist activities for the day. Tomorrow, however, I have a completely new agenda of scary activist stuff that needs to be done (a departmental meeting, grading of student homework, preparing classes for next week, finishing my article on a XIXth century Spanish novel, etc.) Tremble with fear, people, for here I come!
The reason why I wanted to confess to my subversive Hispanist activities in a public forum is that the cat is finally out of the bag on our pernicious presence on American campuses. The enlightened and intelligent state of Arizona was the first one in the country to follow the example of the Soviet Union in repressing the field of Hispanic Studies. This is what Professor Cintli Rodriguez of Arizona who keeps getting arrested for protesting this law has to say:
Four students and myself were just sentenced to 10 hours of community service for a crime we did not commit. More importantly, our act of civil disobedience was in response to an illegal, immoral and unconstitutional law: hb 2281 – a piece of legislation that makes the teaching of Ethnic Studies in Arizona illegal. . . As far as many of us are concerned, the battle over hb 2281 has just begun; the teaching of ethnic studies became illegal on Dec 31 and MAS was ruled out of compliance on Jan 3. We are not only convinced of its illegality, but we are certain of it because of the unambiguous actions of the state legislature. The same day the president came to Tucson, a new Republican-introduced bill (SRC 1010) calls for Arizona to be exempt from international law. As written, it will go to the voters in 2012. The thing is, this issue has already been litigated in U.S. courts. But since when has that stopped our 19th century state legislature? It is also not out of the realm of possibility that a case(s) will be taken to the Organization of American States or the United Nations. What’s at stake here is not simply the right of 11 teachers to teach, but rather, the right of all peoples (students) to education, history and culture. In Arizona, everything has been flipped upside down. Things Greek-Roman are deemed to be American and part of Western Civilization, whereas things Indigenous (MAS-TUSD Indigenous-maiz-based curriculum) are deemed to be un-American and alien. That’s why many of us were arrested. In one sense, it’s a 42-year struggle; the same battle – one over legitimacy – that’s been waged since the creation of Ethnic Studies. At another level, it’s a 518-year clash of civilizations, even though it needn’t be (the civilizations can absolutely co-exist).
Professor Cintli Rodriguez is, of course, right. Civilizations can, indeed, coexist. They actually become stronger, more vibrant, they flourish a lot better as a result of coexistence, contact, mutual penetration. I am absolutely convinced that my students today have gained a lot from our classes, our discussions, and our readings. How can it possibly be a good idea to place a ban on what I do? And please don't tell me that there has been a bad, racist, unintelligent Hispanist here and there so the whole discipline is suspect. There are quack doctors who damage their patients' health irreparably. Are we going to ban the entire practice of medicine as a result?