What better place to put your Spanish language skills to the test than at a university in the heart of San Antonio? The perfect blend of theory and practice, Trinity University offers classes in "cultures and languages across the curriculum," a program in which faculty teach undergraduate courses in business, humanities, and the arts in languages such as Spanish and Chinese, giving students a uniquely interdisciplinary approach to their liberal arts education.
In celebration of Latinx Heritage Month, two Trinity professors shared their experiences of teaching their courses in Spanish. Carlos Vélez Salas, Ph.D., and Rosana Blanco-Cano, Ph.D., are both professors in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. Blanco-Cano leads an international internship experience for students in Spain, where students intern at various firms, trade groups, governmental agencies, and public interest groups to learn about the Spanish economy and business world. Vélez Salas teaches his “Performing Peruvian Identity” course in Spanish and recently gave a lecture, “Peruvian Identities Through Theater,” at the grand opening ceremony of Dicke Hall, Trinity’s new home for the humanities.
Vélez Salas says that in a place like San Antonio, developing Spanish-speaking students can only be a benefit.
“Living in San Antonio, a majority Mexican-American city and where other Latinx groups like Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Peruvians celebrate their cultural traditions and diversity, offers us an array of possibilities to interact, reflect, and celebrate our evolving social and personal identities,” Vélez Salas says.
Blanco-Cano agrees, noting that her own personal identity has only been enhanced while living in San Antonio. “I was living in Boston before I came to Trinity,” she explains. “It was very important for me to live in a city where we [Latinx people] are the majority. In the northeast, I was missing everything. I feel at home (here).”
In a city with a majority Latino or Hispanic population (nearly 65%, according to the latest census), Vélez Salas also sees multilingualism as a useful tool to communicate with the many Spanish-speaking people in San Antonio and beyond—but he says the magic specifically happens when language learning is combined with the humanities, which provides applied cultural and linguistic perspectives to history, politics, economics, and more.
“The humanities that take a second language…are an interdisciplinary catalyst…to better interact with other multilingual Spanish speakers, starting on campus, in the city, in the nation, and in the multilingual Spanish world,” Vélez Salas says.
Blanco-Cano also believes that it’s the applied cultural perspective that makes a liberal arts education so important: “I always think that we come to school to get knowledge, but also to be better human beings, to hear about different perspectives. Liberal arts colleges bring that experience.”
The above picture was taken during a Trinity study abroad trip to Madrid, Spain in 2018.