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Watercolors by the artist Alfredo Ramón are on display during the Centennial.

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Middlebury Celebrates Spanish School Centennial

July 6, 2017

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – The Middlebury Spanish School is celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer with a week of music, discussions, and art exhibitions, and with special attention to the Spanish poets known as the Generation of 1927 and their direct influence on the school.

The Spanish School was founded at Middlebury in summer of 1917 with 63 students and with Julián Moreno-Lacalle, an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy, as its first director. (Today the school numbers 306 students.) Then from 1937 until the mid-1960s many exiles from the Spanish Civil War and from dictatorships in Spanish America came to teach at Middlebury during the summer, including Nobel Prize winners Gabriela Mistral (1931) and Octavio Paz (1945).

Stephen A. Freeman, in his book The Middlebury College Language Schools: The Story of a Unique Idea (Middlebury College Press, 1990), wrote: “Middlebury was in a sense a haven and a home for many of the foremost Spanish intellectuals and men of letters. They loved the school, the countryside, the atmosphere, the freedom and the companionship they found here. Not even in Spain could have found a gathering of men and women such as these.”

One such intellectual was Francisco García-Lorca, brother of the renowned poet Federico García-Lorca. Francisco directed the Spanish School from 1954 to 1963, and his daughter Laura will participate in a roundtable discussion in Spanish on Tuesday, July 18, at 8:30 p.m. in Wilson Hall. She will be joined by Samuel Guarnaccia ’67, whose father, Samuel ’30, was dean of the Spanish School from 1947 to 1969; by Tana Centano, daughter of former director (1931–1949) Juan Centeno; by Soledad Fox Maura, writer, professor, and head of the Department of Romance Languages and the Center for Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Williams College; and by Roberto Véguez, professor emeritus of Spanish, associate director of the Spanish School, and author of the forthcoming book En las montañas de Vermont: Los exiliados en la Escuela Española de Middlebury College (Fort Orange Press, 2017).

In commemoration of the Spanish School Centennial, an English version of Véguez’s new history of the Spanish School from 1917 through 1963 may be viewed online.

Other events are scheduled during the celebration:

-  Monday, July 17, 8:30 p.m., Robison Concert Hall, a performance by the Juanito Pascual Flamenco Trio (open to the public)

- Wednesday, July 19, 8:30 p.m., Robison Concert Hall, a concert with pianist Paco Alvarez and soprano Leticia Hernández

- Thursday, July 20, 7 p.m., Wilson Hall, the annual Guarnaccia Lecture by Mexican journalist and author Elena Poniatowska (in Spanish)

- Friday, July 21, 8:30 p.m., Wilson Hall, a festival of poetry with the reading of works written throughout the history of the Spanish School (in Spanish)

- Saturday, July 22, 9 p.m., Nelson Arena, All-Language Schools Dance with a salsa band (open only to students, faculty, and staff of the Language Schools)

In addition, posters created for the Spanish School by painter Alfredo Ramón (1922–2015 will be on display this summer in Wilson Hall. Ramón was an instructor in the school for many years. The Davis Family Library is also displaying historical photographs of the Spanish School, and the Museum of Art is planning a gallery talk (date to be announced) about its recent acquisition of the Picasso print Sueno y Mentira de Franco.

Spanish School silent film from 1939

The King of Spain issued a proclamation this year congratulating the Spanish School on its 100th anniversary. King Felipe VI recognized “the close ties between the Middlebury Spanish School and the great figures of Spanish thought and letters who found at Middlebury College a place of welcome, a space of excellence, and an academic center open to intellectual exchange and growth.”

Jacobo Sefami, the current director of the Spanish School, said the Centennial celebration is an opportunity to reflect on the school's history and look to the future.

“As Spanish has become a demographic, geographic, cultural, and economic presence in this country and the world, the Spanish School has met the challenge by broadening its offerings, which now include the teaching of the language at all levels,” Sefami said. “This summer the school celebrates its accomplishments and looks forward to many more years of continued service.”

1 Comment

I attended the Intensive Language Program of the Middlebury Spanish School in 1974, when I was only sixteen. It remains one of the outstanding experiences of my life and opened many doors- from being able to maintain a weekly correspondence with my grandmother in Argentina to majoring in Spanish literature at Bryn Mawr College and doing a year of graduate work with a Rotary International Fellowship in Argentina in 1981.. and going on to work in several Latino communities as a pastor and community organizer. More than anything, my experience in the Spanish School taught me the power of visionary, holistic education, where a language is lived and comes alive through culture and the human need to communicate. Now I dream of becoming a student in the Portuguese School one day!

by Christina J. De... (not verified)

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