We were on our way to Pittsburgh. When we passed gallant windmills similar to those described in Cervantes’ Quijote, I feared we might be lost. But, it wasn’t until we read the sign that said “Welcome to Ohio,” that I became certain we were indeed lost. That’s always been a staple in my life: getting lost in new and (hopefully) exciting places. On a good day, I used to call this type of event an adventure. On a bad day, I might have regarded it more as a nightmare. Well, I believe that almost every day is a good day if you look at it in just the right light, so here’s to adventure.
It was late March and I felt excited—a brand new adventure had just begun. I was taking my learning outside of the classroom. Throughout my entire college career as a Hispanic Studies Major at The College of William & Mary, I’d jumped at the chance to learn about the cultures and literatures of Spanish-speaking countries as well as their histories. Now, I was traveling to the University of Pittsburgh to present a paper at a conference with some colleagues and Professor Regina Root, whose Fashioning the Nation class I had taken the previous semester.
I had attended Professor Root’s book discussion and signing for ‘Couture and Consensus’ the week prior to the Pittsburgh trip, during Spring Break, at the Library of Congress, since I felt inspired to learn more about post-colonial Argentina’s cultural history after reading her book for the class Fashioning the Nation. Also at the Library of Congress, I met several experts in the field of Hispanic Cultural Studies who have in due course become mentors to me. I spent six weeks of the summer helping the Hispanic Division organize and locate rare and reference books that were a part of the Jay I. Kislak Collection, a special gift given by Mr. Kislak of over 4,000 books, artifacts, and maps that dealt primarily with pre Columbian art, but which covered closely related topics as well.
We finally did make it to the conference, albeit somewhat late (We actually made it to Ohio first!) There, I presented my paper, written for Professor Root’s class—Martín Fierro: La encrucijada del dolor y la política, for which I won the Juan Espadas Prize for best undergraduate paper written and presented at the 2011 Middle Atlantic Council of Latin American Scholars. I have submitted it for publishing in the MACLAS journal. It was not the prize I won, though, that convinced me I was right for this field of study. Nor entirely that others might be interested in reading my work. It was my discovery that research was an adventure in more ways than one, and precisely that sense of adventure made me eager further to pursue my research interests.
In fact, I am confident that I will continue my work in Hispanic Studies, as I have already begun my honors project to be completed next semester, which I intend to present at MACLAS 2012. In it, I am conducting an ecocritical and socio-political study of the 20th century poetry of Pablo Neruda and César Vallejo, and definitely can see myself studying 20th century Latin American literature from a similar perspective in graduate school, where I hope several professors might have an interest in working with me to further research of this type.
I won’t always have the right answer, I may not be able to always comprehend numbers, I may mistake left from right sometimes, and I may end up in Ohio while heading for Pittsburgh, but as long as I keep that sense of adventure, I’m not lost.