Spanish students look at the local "big picture"
RELEASED: May 3, 2007
DANVILLE, KY—Advanced Spanish students in the class "Contando Historias: A Documentary Seminar on Local Latino Culture" have been given a unique opportunity this term. Thanks in part to a Centre-based technology grant, the students in Dr. David Slade's class have been planning, shooting and editing a series of three documentary films about the Latino community in and around Boyle County.
In the class, students are learning about local Hispanic culture, using their language skills actively in the field, and learning how to use video technology to put together a documentary. All this is combined with a critical approach to learning the history of Spanish speakers in the United States and consideration of many current issues these individuals face.
Slade, Centre assistant professor of Spanish, said, "The class gives students a way to improve their language skills in our local community in a very hands-on way and to be stretched in a cultural way. But one of the main goals was expanding students' knowledge of language and culture in a context that wasn't so controlled."
For Jay Carnes, a senior from Louisville, it's an experiment that worked.
"Although the class has required a lot of time and energy, the experience has stretched me to take my studies of the Spanish language beyond the classroom," he said. "The ultimate purpose for me, learning another language, is to open doors of communication with others. This semester has been a realization of that goal, and the experience is very rewarding."
Said Loren Milligan, a senior from Lexington, Ky., "I've learned a lot about myself and about stereotypes that many people have towards Latinos. I've spent so much time investigating not just what lies on the surface of the lives of Hispanics working here, but also the emotional details of their stories.
"Even though the work we've put into this documentary—up to eight hours a day sometimes—has been very stressful, this has truly been one of the most rewarding experiences of my Centre career."
Marie Davis, a senior from Louisville, echoed those sentiments.
"[The class] has been incredibly rewarding. We've all logged hours and hours behind the camera, doing interviews, editing footage and translating for subtitles, but all the stress seems worth it when we can finally watch it all come together."
The May 8 screening will feature the work Encounters: Where different cultures meet. Encounters explores the dynamics and the successes of local institutions and the Latino community; tensions within the legal system; language barriers in hospitals and clinics; and the efforts of the public schools.
The second screening on May 9 will feature two documentaries: The Reyes of Danville: Perceptions and reflections of a changing community, and Happy Here: Earning a living in the United States. In the first, students establish a relationship with the local Reyes family in an attempt to understand and learn about the lives of Latinos in Boyle County. The documentary is the result of insights the Centre students gained and their personal reflections on the community.
Happy Here explores one reason that many Hispanics immigrate to the United States—to work. Highlighted in the film are many differences between life in the United States and life in Spanish-speaking countries, as well as the difficulties Latinos overcome in order to take advantage of the economic opportunities in the United States. As Hispanics leave their native cultures to begin a new life, they ultimately will have to struggle with the question: "Is it worth it?"A public screening will be held May 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. in Vahlkamp Theater in Crounse Hall. The event is co-sponsored by the Hispanic Society, the International Students Association, the Diversity Student Union, and Sigma Delta Pi (Spanish honors society). Refreshments will be served.
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