University of Minnesota
Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies

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Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies

Founded in the 1960s, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, is widely recognized as a pioneer in the interdisciplinary study of language, literature and, more broadly, cultural expressions grounded in theorized and broadly socio-historical perspectives.

We offer B.A. degrees in Spanish and in combined Spanish and Portuguese; and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Hispanic Literatures and Cultures, Hispanic Linguistics, and Lusophone Literatures & Cultures. Our faculty have strengths in the colonial, postcolonial and globalization triad; feminist, gender and sexuality studies; memory and witnessing; human rights; subaltern studies; law and literature; cultural contacts; and the Hispanic legacies of Hebrew and Arabic traditions. In Linguistics, our strengths are in the study of language in its context(s) with a focus on interdisciplinary approaches to language contact, phonology, pragmatics, second language acquisition, sociolinguistics and syntax.

Department News

  • Spanish and Portuguese Research Group (SPRG)

    Friday, September 25, 2015
    317 Folwell Hall

    Sophia Beal
    Assistant Professor, Dept. of Spanish & Portuguese

    21st-Century Brasília: Spatial Negotiations in Cultural Texts
    In learning about Brasília, we learn about the power of place, not as deriving from some static, unchanging location, but from the  dynamic negotiations that unfold there. Drawing on theory related to  social space and cultural geography, particularly that of Henri  Lefebvre and Doreen Massey, this study analyzes cultural texts concerned with the negotiations that imbue the city with meaning. Four of Brasília’s contemporary cultural texts shed light on the spatial negotiations that continuously transform the city and shape the subjectivities of its residents: Ellen Oléria’s song “Senzala (a feira da Ceilândia),” Viela 17’s song “20 de 40,” Sexy Fi’s album Nunca te vi de boa, and Augusto Rodrigues’s poetry collection Do livro de carne (brasílias invisíveis).
    (Continue Reading)
  • SPACO Welcome Back Event

    SPACO Welcome Back Event
    Tuesday, September 22nd
    4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
    30 Folwell Hall

    SPACO is proud to host our beginning of the semester Welcome Back event! Join us to eat tacos, play games in Spanish, listen to Spanish music, and hold conversation in Spanish or Portuguese.  Everyone is welcome, we just ask that you RSVP to so we know how much food to order. 
    (Continue Reading)
  • Barbara Weissberger, Professor Emeritus, Honored for Her Human Rights Work

    Barbara Weissberger, Professor Emeritus, was honored with The Advocates for Human Rights’ Volunteer Award for her work as a Spanish interpreter in immigration court for unaccompanied minors from Central America. The award was presented to Weissberger at a June 16 event, attended by 800 people and held at the Minneapolis Depot.

    “Professor Weissberger has been an integral part of The Advocates’ response to help refugees from Central America who fled their homelands for safety and protection,” said Deepinder Mayell, director of The Advocates’ Refugee & Immigrant Program. “She has been there when vulnerable children and families needed her the most. She gave voice to people who otherwise would have had to remain silent. She was a voice for those who left their homes, sometimes in the middle of the night, which nothing but a shred of hope. She helped save lives.”

    The Advocates is the largest provider of free legal services in the Upper Midwest to people seeking asylum and to immigrants. In addition to Weissberger, translators Eleni Beyene, Mary Diaz, Sophia Leenay, Teresa Mesa, and Ali Tews were recognized.

    Other volunteers honored at the dinner included Elizabeth Cutter, a Minnesota district court judge, for her work to protect women from domestic violence; Minneapolis Institute of Arts docent Carreen Heegaard, for conducting human rights tours at the Institute; and marketing executive Jörg Pierach, on behalf of the Minneapolis-based Fast Horse, for designing a new website for the organization.

    VocalPoint Chorus and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) each received The Advocates’ Special Recognition Award. VocalPoint was honored for staging two concerts to benefit The Advocates’ work to make a better, safer world for women. CTUL was honored for combining extraordinary organizing with an everyday use of a human rights advocacy approach to empower workers who are far too often invisible.

    The event’s keynote speaker was Sonia Nazario, the Pulitzer Prize Award-winning journalist and author of the book, Enrique’s Journey, also a newspaper series which describes a Honduran boy’s struggle to flee violence in his home country. Nazario spoke about the determination and plight of Central American refugees based, in part, on her journey with migrants from Honduras through Mexico to the United States on top of the “Train of Death.” At the event, Nazario was presented with The Advocates’ Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award.
    (Continue Reading)
  • Language Alumni Reunion

    (Pictured from left to right: Maggie Broner (Ph.D. 2000), Carol Klee (Professor and Chair), Paula Kempchinsky (M.A. 1980), Jackie Mosio (M.A. 1979), Tom Romens (Ph.D. 1980), Patrick Shoemaker)

    On Saturday morning, April 25, 174 alumni from the Department of Spanish & Portuguese Studies, together with alumni from the Departments of French & Italian  and German, Scandinavian & Dutch came to the beautifully remodeled Folwell Hall to enjoy the company of faculty, staff, and new or old friends. They gathered on the fourth floor for coffee and pastries, voted for the best student photographs from the past year's study abroad experiences, and donned "conversation pins" to facilitate discussions of how their language studies have enriched and informed their lives. Everyone then went to the first floor to participate in three mini-class sessions. A total of seventeen mini-classes were offered on a wide range of topics and were taught by a mix of faculty, students, and alumni. 
    Professor Michelle Hamilton (photo to the left) offered a mini-course on “Convivencia in Medieval Iberia,” Professor Jaime Hanneken taught a mini-course on “The Historic Cultural Phenomenon of the Cuban Rumba,” while Professor Luis Ramos-García taught one on “U.S. Latino Theater,” and Kathleen Ganley offered a course on “Latino Immigration.” In addition to faculty, one of our alumni, Maggie Broner, who is an Associate Professor at St. Olaf, gave a mini-course on “Language Learning Assumptions,” and another of our alumni, Kelsey Rademacher, participated in a panel on “Teaching Abroad - the Benefits and Challenges”; one of our undergraduate students, Julia Potach, took part on a panel on “Language Learning Outside the Classroom”; and, one of our graduate students, Luz Hernández, participated in the World Café on “Contemporary Language Evolution & Impact of New Technologies.” You can see the full range of mini-courses below:

    Session A
    Teaching Abroad - the Benefits and challenges
    Regions of France
    Language Learning Outside the Classroom 
    Finnish Origins: Linguistics & Genetics
    Danger in Francophone Africa
    Convivencia in Medieval Iberia
    Session B
    Saints and Soldiers in Medieval France
    The Historic Cultural Phenomenon of the Cuban Rumba
    Language Learning Assumptions
    Growing Anti-Semitism in Europe
    Divine Decadance: Berlin in the Roaring '20s 
    U.S. Latino Theater
    Session C
    25 Years After the Wall 
    Only in Italy: Events not to be Missed
    Food, Energy & Politics in Germany 
    World Cafe: Contemporary Language Evolution & Impact of New Technologies
    Latino Immigration 
    The alumni who attended enjoyed the morning. A number of our alumni sent us the following comments about their experience at the reunion:

    Robert Cook, B.A. 2005, Spanish and Sociology, Corporate Sales
    My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the U of M Language Alumni Reunion last Saturday (April 25th).  Having spent many, many hours in Folwell Hall during my undergrad years ten years ago, it was first & foremost nice to reconnect with a space that holds many positive memories for me.
    As expected, the mini-classes were all interesting, ranging from the origins of the Finnish people to modern life in Berlin, 25 years after the fall of the wall.  We particularly enjoyed the class on the social history of rumba music in Cuba, which touched not only on race and economics, but also provided a bit of music theory as well.
    All of these sessions reminded me of why I chose to be a Spanish major in the first place: when one reflects on the structure and history of a foreign language and culture, one naturally begins to reflect back on one's *own* language and culture.  This sort of critical thinking helps a person to develop a positive world-view, and to recognize that we are all indeed "global citizens".
    We were very happy that the Language Departments offered these mini-classes, as it also provided alumni with an opportunity to gain a brief overview on new scholastic developments, as well as providing "refreshers" on topics we may have studied in the past.  These sort of alumni events show the U's commitment to life-long learning, and we hope to attend many similar events in the future.
    ¡Arriba las Tuzas! (Go Gophers!)

    Jane Magnuson, B.A. 1997, Spanish, Global Human Resources - Onboarding at Accenture. 
    The reunion was a great event!  It was well-organized and a great opportunity to reconnect with fellow alumni and professors, see the beautifully renovated Folwell Hall and take interesting courses.
    The event was also a reminder of the value of my university experience (especially studying abroad and getting a degree in a foreign language) and how it continues to resonate to this day.  My time at the University helped me develop a unique perspective and certainly has shaped my career in global human resources. 
                I am grateful to be an alum who lives close to the University, and able to participate in all of the opportunities the University offers the community (not just alums) to get involved, learn and give back.  Maintaining a connection to the university and the foreign language department is like a gift that keeps on giving, and for that I am grateful!

    Ada Cifuno, B.A. 2010, Spanish, Associate Business Analyst at SPS Commerce
    The reunion was a great experience. Nostalgia was high and it re-sparked my passion for languages. It was refreshing to be surrounded with others that share that same passion again.

    Tanya Novak, B.A. 1984, Spanish, ESL teacher at Anoka Hennepin School District
    It was really wonderful being back in a stimulating environment where alumni of all ages came together just for the fun of learning. Although Folwell Hall has entered the modern age with its funky plastic desks and modern technology, it has still retained its beautiful architecture. Walking down the hallways brought back memories of some of the great language instructors and professors who impacted my life.

    Alexandra Kivley, B.A. 2011, Spanish, Manages translations at Arch Language Network
    It was so refreshing to be back in the academic setting and in such a relaxing and fun atmosphere. Working full time, it is hard to continue your education on a regular basis - and this was much needed brain food!

    Carolyn Fernandez, B.A. 1992, Spanish and Psychology,  Web Team Customer Service & Inside Sales. Velocity Tech Solutionskytown

    "I had a great time at the reunion.  I hope to attend others.  The classes I took were fantastic!"
    (Continue Reading)

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