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November 16, 2006

Cervantes Institute comes to the UW

It can’t bring Seattle any sun from Salamanca, but a Cervantes Institute, newly created at the UW, promises culture from Spain and Latin America plus courses in Spanish online.

This fall, the center opened as a smaller version, or aula, of Cervantes Institutes elsewhere in the world. As a pilot project, it’s the first Cervantes Institute on the West Coast and the first at a university.

“It’s part of a larger strategy to increase outreach on campus and in the larger community,” said Tony Geist, chairman of Spanish and Portuguese Studies. “We want to promote cultural events from Spain and Latin America as a way of inviting the Seattle community onto campus.” The UW aula, one of nine worldwide, is a new model for expanding the institute, Geist said.

He and Luis Fernando Esteban, the Spanish vice-consul in Seattle, were instrumental in bringing the institute to the University. Jose Ignacio Callen, a specialist in teaching Spanish, directs the center from an office in Padelford Hall.

A lecture or exhibit in January will mark the official opening, but in the meantime, the institute co-sponsored an exhibit earlier this month in Odegaard Undergraduate Library. Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 consisted of 20 easel-mounted panels showing the work of photographers such as Robert Capa, and writers such as Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell and John Dos Passos.

Founded in 1991, the Cervantes Institute is similar to other cultural centers like the Alliance Francaise organized by France and the Goethe Institute organized by Germany. In the U.S., Cervantes operates centers in Seattle as well New York, Chicago and Albuquerque.

The centers’ online Spanish instruction has been part of second-year Spanish classes at UW. Actually, the courses are Cervantes’ pilot effort in higher education, according to Kristee Boehm, a UW lecturer who coordinates UW’s second-year Spanish program. The classes are also available to outside subscribers: $32 for a three-month course (http://ave.cervantes.es/ing.htm).

The institute would eventually like its courses offered at Seattle area companies, Callen said.