Conference panels, keynote focuses on boundaries



By KATHERINE CLAYTON Lifestyles Editor

Eventually the word ‘border’ becomes more than a word and  becomes an identity. Borders, whether they are physical or metaphorical, can block or box in an individual, but instead of being destroyed borders are memorialized by the people who overcome them.

The Spanish Undergraduate Conference took place March 23. The theme for the conference was “Crossing Borders then and now: Celebrating 400 Years of Don Quijote”.

Santiago Vaquera Vasquez gave the keynote presentation for the Spanish Undergraduate Conference. His presentation was titled “Xicano in the Borderlands: Reflections on Border Crossing.” He is a professor of creative writing and Southwestern United States literature at the University of New Mexico.

“As writers, we want to create characters,” Vaquera said. “Lists are a good way to do it.”

Vaquera’s speech was a list of different experiences he had with borders and with movies and books that reference borders. Vaquera travels frequently and has visited Spain, Mexico, Turkey and other countries.

“To be a traveler in a post 9/11 world is a cause of suspicion,” Vaquera said.

Vaquera discussed his adventures traveling abroad. He told a story about a time when an agent at an airport was not impressed with his heavily stamped passport and was instead weary. Vaquera said the agent saw him as instable.

“Some of us kids [who were born in the United States to Hispanic parents] didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us,” Vaquera said.

Instead of being stopped by borders, Vaquera is motivated to travel across them to explore.

Hunter Henderson, a junior animal science and Spanish major with an equine science minor, attended the keynote presentation. She heard about the conference and decided to attend because of her Spanish class and Spanish professor.

“[The keynote presentation] was really neat,” Henderson said. “I related it to my life.”

Henderson has traveled to nine countries including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and various countries in Europe. Henderson said she loves to travel and she has many international friends.

Over spring break, Henderson traveled to Brazil.

“I am definitely an international traveler,” Henderson said. “[Travel] opens your eyes to so many different things. It’s amazing; you grow as a person.”

Currently, Vaquera’s favorite place to travel is Istanbul. He speaks very little Turkish, but he says that it allows him to focus on writing.

“[Not being able to speak Turkish] frees me from distracting myself as a writer,” Vaquera said.

In addition to the keynote, the conference included the following panels: contemporary debates in the Spanish-speaking world, the social realities of childhood in the Spanish-speaking world, service learning in the Midwest (exploration in Spanish: La Mary J. Treglia community house), Déjà vu: Film, identity and culture in the francophone world, 20th Century Latin American literature, Imperialist exchanges: Colonial to present, study abroad and service learning I (exploration in Spanish: Peru, Colombia and Guatemala), German in contemporary global cultures, war and dictatorship in Chile and Spain, cultural explorations in Spanish-Speaking America, war and gender in French-language films,  study abroad and service learning II (interdisciplinary perspective in English (Senegal and Guatemala), exploring gender in the Spanish-speaking world and comparative studies: Spain and United States.