Since I was a child, I’ve always been interested in the role of food in contributing to a culture’s shared identity and sense of community. My interest in cuisine stems primarily from my family background because my parents have worked in the food service industry my entire life, and they used to run their own coffee shop. Seeing their hard work at their shop instilled in me a respect for small business owners and their ability to establish relationships with customers through personalized service and simple food and drink.
For my project last summer, I decided to investigate a small aspect of the culture in Montpellier by researching and sampling local foods created and sold within the Langeudoc-Roussillon region where Montpellier is located. My goal was to better understand the character of the region by investigating the goods that are important there. I also interviewed James Egreteau, the owner of Le Panier d’Aimé, which is a small business in Montpellier that sells locally produced food and drink. By tasting regional products, such as spreads, oils, and wines, and learning about Mr. Egreteau’s growing business, I was able to explore a facet of the culture in Montpellier from a local’s perspective. Locally sourced foods, like those sold at Le Panier d’Aimé, are a way for tourists and younger generations to connect to the rich agricultural history and traditions of the South of France.
Food can sometimes be taken for granted because it’s easy to purchase and consume food without thinking too much about where it comes from and who produces it. However, my experience in Montpellier reinforced the idea that food is a powerful way to connect with others and learn about an area’s history and personality.
During the summer of 2015, El Cid, the National Journal of the Tau Iota Chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, at The Citadel, will publish an article by Michael J. Le (HISP ’15; minor in Japanese). Michael’s article focuses on the graphic novel by Antonio Altarriba, El arte de volar (2009). Altarriba’s poignant graphic novel details the author’s attempt to portray his father’s life during the war and post-war through his themes of reconciliation and fragmentation, reflected in the very medium itself. Not only do the frames divide the narrative and must be completed to continue: Altarriba masterfully superimposes his own narrative voice onto that of his father, creating a tense intersection spanning generations and political perspectives. In essence, the reader becomes the connective tissue that binds the relationship between son, father, and narrative and is subsequently transformed into a witness to the greater part of the 20th century. A true collaboration between reader and text. Within this context, Michael looks at how Altarriba elevates the personal narrative to a national narrative of trauma and collective memory, examining the familial unit as a metaphor for political turmoil.
As a Hispanic Studies major, Michael has embraced multiple and varied opportunities in our program, including serving as a Teaching Assistant for our language classes. After a successful internship at the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress (summer 2013), during which he developed the basis for a finding aid for the Handbook of Latin American Studies, Michael spent last summer (2014) interning at the Cultural Division of the Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C.. During the latter, Michael found himself doing heavy editorial and translation work, which dovetailed with the translation courses he had taken in our program, his translations for the documentary La memoria se abre paso, and for Oneyda González‘s book Polvo de alas: el guión cinematográfico en Cuba. Translation was also an important part of Michael’s work as a research assistant to Prof. Francie Cate-Arries for the Cádiz Memory Project. Under the auspices of a Weingartner Fellowship, Michael was able to translate testimonies and research Historic Memory in post-Franco Spain, which included translating and subtitling the documentary La Sauceda, de la utopía al horror.
After graduating, Michael will spend a year teaching English in Japan through the prestigious JET program.
I choose to give to the Hispanic Studies program at William and Mary because it was there that my love of other cultures and the Spanish language was cultivated. Beyond the value I’ve gotten from learning an important language, I was exposed to powerful literature from writers like Jorge Luis Borges, Isabel Allende, and Federico Garcia Lorca. Of particular impact was my senior seminar with Professor Cate-Arries on exiled Spaniards during the Franco dictatorship. I became ‘pen pals’ with an elderly lady, Isabel, in Spain who opened up to me about what life was like for her and her family under a totalitarian state. It was incredibly eye opening for me as a young kid living in the college bubble.
After graduation I took the opportunity to live and teach English in Spain for two years, where I was able to further my language skills and love of the culture. I also got to actually meet Isabel in person in Madrid which is an experience I’ll always cherish. The skills gained through my time in the Hispanic Studies department have served me well in my two jobs after returning from Spain. I worked in sales and marketing with several resort chains in Latin America and the Caribbean and now am the Associate Director of Business Development at The Latinum Network in Bethesda, MD where I work directly with the Hispanic and Multicultural marketing strategies of Fortune 500 companies.
Being Muslim and Arab American themselves, both Duenya Hassan ’16 and Saif Fiaz ’17 thought they were in for an easy spring semester when they enrolled in “Arabs in America/America in Arabs.”
“I was like, ‘I got this. It’s going to be an easy class,’” said Fiaz, a biology major whose parents are Pakistani. “But I’ve learned a lot. I was surprised.”
Hassan, a government and gender, sexuality and women’s studies major whose parents are Palestinian, echoed Fiaz. “I didn’t think I’d learn as much as I have,” she said.
They attribute some of that learning to the style of the class taught by Stephen Sheehi, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Associate Professor of Middle East Studies at William & Mary. In addition to traditional class readings, essays and discussions, students must design and post multimedia blog entries integrating current events and issues with the class materials. The class materials are prescribed, but students can take off in any direction they choose as long as they relate it back to the material.
“They are encouraged to think in terms of multimedia, using written sources, videos, music, to explore what activists – not only intellectuals – are doing,” Sheehi said. “They explore the political conditions affecting the Arab-American experience and how Arab Americans answer those conditions, how they forge their own identities.”
The blog, “Arab American Tribe,” had Hassan and her classmates responding within days to the shooting deaths of a Jordanian couple – both graduate students – and the sister of the wife in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in Feburary. Their post examined the reluctance of the police and media to label the murders as a hate crime, in contrast to Muslims around the world.
“In class we were talking about racial hierarchies within the U.S. and how Arab Americans have had this process, according to Matthew Jacobson, of becoming white,” Hassan said. “The first Christian Arabs were able to assimilate, to integrate, and to receive many of the privileges the majority received. After 9/11, you see this flip. You have discrimination against Arabs, and, at this point, it doesn’t matter if they are Muslim or Christian, because it’s based primarily on physical appearance.
“In looking at this incident, we were trying to understand where Arab Americans fit into this racial hierarchy now, and because the media portrayed this as some lone incident, whether there are sentiments the public has about this issue.”
Rob Leventhal, Associate Professor of German Studies, March 5-15, 2015 Jewish Cultural and Social Pathways in the Upper Rhine Valley
We were slated to leave Thursday, March 5th, from RIC on a study-research spring-break trip, sponsored by the Meyers Stern Endowment in Judaic Studies that would take us to the Upper Rhine Valley from Basel, Switzerland to Cologne Germany in eight days. Time was of the essence. On Monday of that week, it became clear that winter snowstorm Thor was going to hit the mid-Atlantic hard. On the assumption that our flight from RIC to Dulles would be cancelled, and working together with Dean Lu Ann Homza and Covington Travel, we decided to drive to Dulles in the hope that our flight to Frankfurt would be able to depart. We were right! The RIC-Dulles flight was cancelled, and our Frankfurt flight, although delayed four hours by the blinding snow – it reached 10 inches at Dulles that afternoon and eve – was finally de-iced and took to the sky at 9:45pm.
Day 1: Frankfurt
Our first stop was Frankfurt am Main, a major center for Jewish life from the early modern period until the Nazi seizure of power in 1933. Our destination was the Frankfurt Jewish Museum, in particular the special exhibition “Im Lichte der Menora” (In the Light of the Menora), about the Jews in Roman settlements in the Upper Rhine Valley dating from the 4th century CE. Here, we were able to view, for example, the famous “menorah” ring from the 4th century CE found at the Augusta Raurica just outside of Basel. This exhibit gave the students and me the very real sense of Christians and Jews living together in communities throughout the Rhine Valley as the Empire began to dissolve. Decisive information about temples, worship, family, the Rabbis, gender, communality and governance (and self-governance!) helped us construct a vivid portrait of Jewish life in medium- sized and even smaller communities in the Rhine Valley from the 4th century CE until 1200.
Days 2 and 3: Basel
The next stop was Basel, Switzerland, where for centuries Jews were forced to live outside of the City gates and could only gain entrance on specific days with a special pass. We visited the Augusta Raurica, one of earliest and best-preserved Roman archeological sites north of Alps, where many Jewish artifacts from the period 4th – 5 th c. CE have been found. The Jewish Museum of Switzerland provided the perfect example of what is called the “back room” museum, very rich in materials but with literally no “storefront.” It is hidden in an inner courtyard in one of Basel’s upscale neighborhoods. Our guide took us into the Basel Synagogue, built in the second half of the 19th century, designed by a German (Christian) architect. Basel was one of the premier book-printing centers of Europe in the 1500s, and we saw beautiful examples of translations of the Hebrew Bible from the mid 16th century. Basel was also the home to the First World Zionist Congress in 1897, and Herzl’s presence could be felt by the large photograph of him at the bridge overlooking the Rhine. Two key Jewish communities outside of Basel, Lengau and Endingen, survived. Our guide was an Israeli who had married a man from one of these surrounding Jewish communities.
Days 4 and 5: Freiburg / Sulzburg/ Staufen
On Sunday, we took the train to Freiburg-im-Breisgau, at the foot of the Black Forest in Southwestern Germany. Freiburg itself was the launching pad for our excursion to the tiny village of Sulzburg in the Black Forest, where a Jewish community thrived until it was deported to the French Concentration Camp Gurs, and from there to the killing centers in the East. In the beautiful Synagogue, plundered by the Nazis but not destroyed as it was too close to the surrounding homes, restored and now housing a small museum dedicated to the Jews of Sulzburg and their history, we saw evidence of how Jews lived in the late 18th, 19 th and early 20th centuries with Christians side by side as neighbors. A map showed us how the Jewish homes were spread throughout the small village; other images and objects revealed the life of Jews: merchants, tradesmen, traveling salesmen of kitchen and farm wares, Rabbis, schoolteachers, physicians. We saw evidence of a Jewish Swim Club from the 1920s, and the amazing cemetery just outside of the village itself on the side of a hill, still standing – not desecrated –covering the entire side of a hill. The tales of Jacob Picard (“The Marked One”) of Landjuden in the late 19th and early 20th century accompanied us as we made our way up the beautiful valley into the Black Forest to an Inn where we enjoyed cake and tea. In Freiburg, we met with Daniela Schaffart, the director of the wonderful documentary film Geschichte ganz nah — Eine Reise zu den Gedenk¬stät¬ten in mei¬ner Hei¬mat (History Close-Up: A Journey to the Memorial Sites of my Homeland).
Jewish Life in Sulzburg in the Black Forest, circa 1920
Jewish Swim Club, Sulzburg, circa 1920
Days 6 and 7: Magenza: Mainz / Speyer / Worms
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we were in Mainz, where we took in the new Synagogue and visited the Chagall Windows at St. Stephens Church. We also went to Speyer to view the ShPIRA Museum, the remains of the Old Synagogue (1185, and still in use today), and its incredible Mikveh (Ritual Bath), the oldest one of its kind north of the Alps (1120). The story of the curator was that when the Synagogue was destroyed by the Nazis during Kristallnacht in 1938, the exploded stones from the Synagogue covered up the entrance to the Mikveh so thoroughly that it went unharmed for the remainder of the War. In Worms, the great Bible scholar/commentator Rabbi Schlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi) lived and taught during the Middle Ages, roughly 1060-1105.
Day 8: Bacharach: Legend and Living History
Bacharach am Rhein was our next stop, where we stayed in the castle Burg Stahleck high above the river, which has been converted into a Youth Hostel. The students had read Heine’s famous Novella, The Rabbi of Bacharach, and the Sankt Werner Kapelle, which 20 years ago was on the verge of collapse, was on the trail up to the Castle. Sankt Werner is named thus as the supposed sanctified victim of a Blood Libel, a so-called Ritual Murder, one of the chief myths that circulated from the Medieval into the Early Modern Period and beyond of Jews murdering a Christian child for the use of their blood. The Catholic Church of the region wanted to allow the Saint Werner Chapel to collapse, and thus all memory of the sanctification and its ongoing effect erased, but a grassroots organization led by local Lawyer Peter Keber, whom Professor Leventhal met while on the mountain path going back to the Castle, raised 6m EURO to have the Chapel transformed into a site of Christian-Jewish Reconciliation work, a series of ongoing lectures, workshops and talks on German-Jewish Relations. Peter came by Friday morning to drop off the volume Toleranz vor Augen (Tolerance before Our Very Eyes) [Mainz, 2010], which contains documentation of the project and Das Forum 2008-2009.
Day 9: Cologne
Cologne was our last stop before heading back to Frankfurt and then home. Unfortunately, the entire archeological zone is now closed due to the construction of the New Jewish Museum and Jewish Center. However, we visited the Olympics Museum to look for traces of the 1972 Munich Olympics, in which eleven Israeli athletes were killed in a shootout after they were held hostage and then abducted by members of Black September. To our amazement, we found only one small “black box” and a small plaque commemorating the massacre. The next morning, we went to the Stadtmuseum (The City Museum), where detailed histories of the Jews of Cologne provided us with an in-depth sense of Jews’ lives from the Middle Ages until the Nazi Genocide. In 1941, all avenues to escape the Nazi reign of terror were shut down, and by late 1942, most of the city’s 11,000 Jews had been deported to the concentration camps and killing centers in the East. The anti-Semitic figure of the Judensau (a mockery of Judaism and Jewish Dietary law) is found on a seat in the Cologne cathedral dating from 1210; the first pogrom against the Jews had occurred in 1348-49; and the Jews were expelled from the city in 1478, only allowed to return in the late 18th century.
This was an amazing trip. We all saw and learned so much. To experience these memorials, museums, and sites of remembrance/commemoration first hand enabled us to get a fuller, richer, more textured sense of Jewish History in Germany, the relations between Germans/Christians and Jews, and the ties that connected them since the Early Middle Ages. Most interesting for the group was to be able to question the well-rehearsed figures of the Ghetto Jew and Hofjude, to learn about Landjuden, and to place alongside the history of oppression and victimhood (to be sure, a very important vector of German-Jewish History) another history of periodic but significant co-existence, even flourishing. We experienced the pre-history of the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment and the drive for emancipation in the second half of the 18th century.
Sandra Raggio (director of the CPM), Bruno Carpinetti (CPM & Universidad Nacional Arturo Jauretche), and five young interns & volunteers at the CPM (Ángeles Lucía Fernández, Ignacio Abel Gil, Gabriel Illescas Álvarez, Victoria Collado Ferrari, and Camila Marchione) were invited to explore issues of immigration near Tucson, AZ, at the US-Mexico border. After a week of intense physical and psychological fieldwork, the delegation arrived in Williamsburg in order to share their experience and their perspective with different student groups and the community at large. As part of their visit to the College, the delegation offered a comparative analysis of the challenges and issues of immigration and human rights both at the US-Mexico border, and in Argentina. The event, “Crossing Borders in the Americas: A Roundtable on Immigration and Human Rights,” was moderated by Prof. Silvia Tandeciarz (Hispanic Studies & Latin American Studies).
[the full video of the roundtable, without English subtitles, can be found here]
During their time at the College, the delegation met with W&M students who had also visited the US-Mexico border earlier in January studying global complexity with Prof. Jonathan Arries (Hispanic Studies & Latin American Studies) and Bill Fisher (Anthropology & Latin American Studies). They also shared their insights with Prof. Jennifer Bickham Méndez (Sociology & Latin American Studies) and students in her advanced seminar, SOCL 409 – ‘Immigration and Human Rights.’
The visit of the Argentine delegation was sponsored by the Reves Center, the Latin American Studies Program, the Charles Center, and the Hispanic Studies Program. Technological assistance for the production of the videos was generously offered by Pablo Yáñez and Mike Blum; subtitles were generated by Prof. Jorge Terukina.