When Melany Vergara applied to the Foreign Languages Program (English and French) at the Universidad del Atlántico in her hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia, she had no idea the path she was choosing would lead her back to Spanish.

During the fourth year of her Licenciatura studies in Barranquilla, she took advantage of an opportunity to spend two months in Culiacán, the capital of the state of Sinaloa in Mexico, teaching English in an orphanage. But shortly after her arrival, once she realized the orphans were mostly illiterate in their mother tongue, Melany switched to Spanish, tutoring, mentoring, and helping the children to complete their school projects.

The sensitivity to injustice that Melany’s own experience growing up in a marginalized neighborhood in Barranquilla had instilled in her was profoundly deepened and broadened by her work with the children in the orphanage in Culiacán. The challenging conditions those children had endured — domestic abuse, drug-related violence, homelessness — inspired her decision to pursue an advanced degree at the University of Florida and focus her study and research on the representation of children surviving in violent environments in Colombian, Brazilian, and Mexican literature and film.

Melany believes that by analyzing such material and sharing her findings, she can increase awareness of the ongoing violation of children’s human rights. She hopes that her research might help everyone understand the complex circumstances involved in the portrayal of children, as both victims and victimizers, in Latin American literature and film.

Imanol Suárez-PalmaImanol Suárez-Palma (Assistant Professor, Hispanic Linguistics) is from Asturias, Spain. He obtained his PhD in Hispanic Linguistics from the University of Arizona (May 2019), where he also minored in Linguistics and in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching from the SLAT interdisciplinary program. His dissertation, “Datives Stuck in the Middle,” explores the interaction between middle-passive constructions and dative arguments in Spanish and other closely-related languages such as Asturian or Catalan.

In addition to formal linguistics, Imanol is interested in language acquisition, bilingualism and additional language instruction. His graduate education also comprises MA degrees in Hispanic Studies (University of Kent, UK) and in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language (Universidad de Oviedo, Spain). When not working on “syntacticky” stuff, he loves exploring new restaurants and happy-hour spots, visiting second-hand book and record stores, cooking, and spending time looking at alligators!

Paola UparelaPaola Uparela (Assistant Professor, Hispanic Literature) specializes in Colonial and Transatlantic Latin American cultural studies, gender, sexuality, and queer studies, visual culture, race, and biopolitics. She holds a PhD in Spanish (2019) and an MA in Latin American and Iberian Studies (2015) from the University of Notre Dame, as well as a BA in Literature from Universidad de Los Andes (Colombia, 2010).

Paola’s current research focuses on the colonial emergence of gyneco-scopic regimes and on the material and symbolic violence that made the female genitalia ultra-visible and intelligible. Paola has received numerous teaching and research awards, such as the 2018 Victoria Urbano Essay Award, the Feministas Unidas Essay Prize, and the fellowship Feminisms and Science: Women in STEM. Paola’s articles appear in H-ART, Hispanic Issues, A contracorriente, Lingüística y Literatura, among other academic journals. When Paola is not working, she does performing arts and loves to dance.

Quinn HansenQuinn Hansen (Lecturer, Portuguese Language and Culture) was raised in Texas, where he earned a BA in Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature from the University of Texas at Austin.

Following that, he moved to Portugal to pursue an MA in Linguistics from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa. After completion of his MA, Quinn moved to Aleppo, Syria, to teach first grade at an international school. Upon returning to the United States, he completed a PhD in Linguistics at the University of Florida under the direction of Dr. Eric Potsdam.

Although his past research focused on syntactic issues related to Brazilian Portuguese, Quinn now dedicates his time to focusing on the many different aspects of Luso-Brazilian culture including language use, music, political systems, and sports. Quinn enjoys helping students fall in love with the Luso-Brazilian world and its many cultural expressions, and is looking forward to helping to grow our Portuguese offerings.

Lorena FerrandoLorena Albert Ferrando (Lecturer, Spanish Language and Culture) holds a BA in Spanish Philology (Universidad de Zaragoza, 2002) and masters degrees in Languages and Literature and Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language (The Graduate Center, CUNY, 2005; International University Menéndez Pelayo, 2013; Universidad de Zaragoza, 2017).

She is currently finishing her PhD dissertation, which deals with the linguistic and ideological approach of Spanish language teaching at the beginning of the twentieth century with regards to the articulation of the Spanish nation and the development of its international relationships in America.

She has taught Spanish language and culture at both US and European institutions (such as Princeton University, NYU, International University Menéndez Pelayo, and the University of St Andrews), and has worked as a teacher of Spanish as a second language with non-scholarized immigrants and refugees in Spain. When Lorena is not working, she is at the movies, at a concert, or just out and about exploring the town with her bike — even though she knows she should be writing!

Lawyer Alexis Lambert received the Outstanding Young Alumni (OYA) Award from the UF Alumni Association earlier this year

Alexis LambertNineteen years after graduation, people still ask me why I chose Spanish as my major. It certainly wasn’t my original plan; having scored a 5 on the AP Spanish exam, I had already satisfied UF’s foreign language requirement. But I decided to take one class in the department at UF to see what it was like. We never knew what was coming in Professor Pharies’ class, but it was always interesting and fun. I realized that majoring in Spanish would give me all the advantages of a small, liberal arts college experience without having to sacrifice the perks of a big school.

I read the Quijote with Professor Armon, learned about modern Peninsular literature with Professor Nichols, and studied Latin American film and culture with Professor Avellaneda. It was a great mix of art, culture, history, and politics.

During my second year of law school, we studied a case that hinged on the meaning of the verb deber.  In this case, the defendant moved to suppress statements he made after he was arrested. He had said “debo yo llamar a mi abogado” to the police officer. With only a transcript and no audio, the court had to weigh whether the defendant was asking if he should call his lawyer or saying that he must call his lawyer.

Throughout my career, Spanish has come in handy. Whether it was translating press releases or interpreting in constituent meetings, being bilingual has made me more employable in a competitive job market. I’ve also used my language skills in volunteer work. Every summer, I serve as a translator to a team of American medical professionals who provide free surgical care to patients in Antigua, Guatemala. This year, I had to tell a 36 year old patient he had the same cancer that I did. I told him he could cry for one day but then had to go to war; I was beating the disease, and he could, too. He came back the next day with labs and images indicating the best of a bad situation: only one cancer, in only one place. With surgery and radiation, he would be changed, but not destroyed — just like me.

My education at UF refined a skill that has allowed me to meet incredible people, see beautiful places, and experience life way beyond my suburban South Florida upbringing. I’m forever grateful.

To learn more about the Outstanding Young Alumni (OYA) Award, click here

Libby Ginway and Theresa Williamson after her talk “Community Resistance in Post-Olympic Rio de Janeiro” Nov. 12, 2019

Professor Libby Ginway and then-graduate-student Andréa Ferreira first piloted a class on favelas — Brazil’s low-income communities — as the theme of the culture course in the six-week study abroad program in Rio de Janeiro during Summer B 2010.  Rio was a logical setting for the class, since favelas are visible near the airport and throughout the hills surrounding the city, and students regularly expressed curiosity about these communities. Local specialists in anthropology, environmental history, music, religion, and photography were invited to class to present to the students that summer.

The course was a success, and continued in future summers. It was especially meaningful during the summers of 2014 and 2016, when both the World Cup and the Olympics were hosted in Brazil. In Rio, students saw firsthand the impact of the games through the evictions from favelas and the militarization of the police as incursions were made into these communities in the name of security.

In Fall 2016, Dr. Ginway taught a version of the course in English, cross-listing it with Latin American Studies. She introduced students to a wide range of readings, from urban studies and anthropology to history, crime and governance, in order to provide a solid background and historical perspective, and to avoid the sensationalized violence of films such as City of God (2002). She then used fiction, film, and studies on tourism to examine issues surrounding the “gaze” and issues of power and spectacle. Finally, they examined daily life in music, dance, and visual arts — especially graffiti and photography—as a means of expression, therapy, and activism. For the final course project, each student presented a final paper on favelas from his or her disciplinary interest: the topics included health and educational systems, Brazilian soap operas, film and activism through art, issues of crime and justice and gated communities, families and youth, and the role of NGOs (non-governmental organizations). According to Dr. Ginway, this was by far the most satisfying part of the class, as students proved they had assimilated complex issues that affect the social reality of these communities and their role in Brazilian society.

Dr. Ginway is teaching the course again in Fall 2019 and has invited Rio community activist Theresa Williamson, who regularly tours U.S. campuses, to her class later this semester.

View Previous Editions of the Spanish and Portuguese Studies Newsletter

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies is excited to announce the development of a brand new major, effective Fall 2019, which will be replacing the two current majors (Spanish, Portuguese) offered by SPS. The BA in Hispanic and Latin American Languages, Literatures and Linguistics includes three possible tracks for students: 1) Spanish; 2) Portuguese; and 3) a combined Spanish and Portuguese track.

We undertook this reform in order to more accurately reflect the nature of our departmental offerings, and to better appeal to the changing interests and needs of our students. Our Spanish and Portuguese offerings are evolving, in conjunction with the changing face of humanities disciplines nation-wide, and have moved away from the traditional philological approach to explore new areas such as linguistics, film, and language for professions. At the upper division, we offer coursework in linguistics focusing on theoretical as well as applied areas, such as sociolinguistics, bilingualism, language in contact, and new approaches to language teaching and learning. The offerings in literature and culture include advanced coursework in film and society, popular culture, the visual arts and literature, and courses on themes such as violence, gender and sexuality as well as pressing socio-political issues in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world.

What’s more, the new curriculum provides us with the opportunity to highlight and combine the two languages that comprise our department, as well as the modern curriculum we offer and the potential for interdisciplinary study. UF has already taken the first step in recognizing the unique status of Spanish and Portuguese in our state by creating a separate department for our languages, while combining other world languages into one department. As the only institution in the FL state university system that maintains a separate department for Spanish & Portuguese, we are uniquely poised to distinguish ourselves with this degree program. By including a track combining coursework on Spain, Spanish America and Brazil, our program helps foster the “translingual and transcultural competence” (Modern Language Association, 2007) students need in order to be successful in today’s multilingual world, with an emphasis on the languages and cultures that are among the most important for the state of Florida.

Farewell to Susana Braylan

Senior Lecturer Susana Braylan is retiring in May 2019. Susana first came to UF as an undergraduate student in 1980, earned her MA in Spanish Literature in 1990, and was hired as a full-time Lecturer in Spanish in 1997. She recalls with gratitude the influence of those professors who opened her eyes to a new world and shaped her into a more enlightened person. Susana mentions in particular Dr. Adolfo Prieto, “mentor and guide, great friend and advisor,” and Dr. Geraldine Nichols, who opened the doors to feminism and feminist thought for her.


Portrait of Susana Braylan

Over her more than two decades working at UF, Susana has served the department in a wide range of capacities. Reflecting on these, she says she believes the most important educational project of her time, and her major contribution to SPS, was to coordinate the Spanish as a Heritage Language Program (formerly the Bilingual Program, and originally the Native and Near-Native Speakers Program, designed and directed for several years by Dr. Reynaldo Jiménez). Susana introduced changes to the program and vigorously promoted it across the UF campus. She is pleased to leave the Bilingual Program in the capable hands of Drs. Diego Pascual and Víctor Jordán-Orozco.

Susana’s participation in SPS’s study abroad programs constitutes her most cherished professional experience. She accompanied groups of UF students four times to Santander and twice to Valencia. She also initiated and directed a program in Buenos Aires, which ran for only a few years. Susana particularly enjoyed having her students share their experiences with her, as well as witnessing the amazement and joy they felt at discovering new places.
Susana has kept in touch with many of her former students, especially via social media. “They make me feel that I have made a small but positive mark on their lives, which assures me that although I will be retired I will remain present in their lives,” she writes.

As for her retirement plans, Susana wants to spend time with family members she has barely seen lately, especially the growing number of grandchildren she has around the world in Texas, Argentina, and Spain. She and Horacio plan to move to North Carolina, where they will be able to cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway on their Gold Wing motorcycles!

Dr. Lynn Scott followed a somewhat circuitous route into the then Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. At the “advanced age of 23,” as Lynn put it, she moved to Mexico with her English-speaking husband and only then began learning Spanish—primarily by having to shop for basic household necessities. Lynn had studied both French and Italian in college, and her background in those closely related Romance languages proved to be quite useful. During and after her year in Mexico City, she continued to study Spanish on her own, and her confidence and competence in the language continued to develop. After substitute-teaching at Buchholz High School in Gainesville, Lynn decided to jump into the MA program in Spanish at 40+ years of age. “I loved it — the intellectual stimulation of the classes, the teaching, the research,” she writes. Dr. Geraldine Nichols (now Professor Emerita) encouraged Lynn to continue her studies in the UF Ph.D. program. As Lynn recalls, “it was hard with two kids at home, but it was a great cultural and intellectual experience. I’m still in touch with several of my graduate student colleagues who treated me as an equal and, better yet, respected my knowledge.” While working on her Ph.D. dissertation, Lynn’s research was supported with a CLAS Dissertation Fellowship and grants from the Tinker Foundation and the Program for Cultural Cooperation in Madrid. In addition, she was named the Tybel Spivack Scholar in Women’s Studies in 1993. Her dissertation focused on the early 20th-century Spanish author, Carmen de Burgos, and she completed her Ph.D. in 1999. Lynn’s essay on one of Carmen de Burgos’s works was published in the Feminist Encyclopedia of Spanish Literature. Lynn recently donated her copies of many of the author’s writings to the department.

Lynn Scott

“It was hard with two kids at home, but it was a great cultural and intellectual experience.”

Once Lynn was no longer teaching and had some free time, she and her husband were invited to join a Spanish-speaking social group called Los Amigos de Gainesville where they were the only non-Latino couple. Lynn writes: “It was great for my Spanish and I learned to dance the merengue—sort of!” But she and her husband have decided that it’s time for them to leave Gainesville and move closer to their three grand-daughters, the eldest of whom is only 5. “Unfortunately,” Lynn concludes, “they’re in cold Connecticut.” But she looks forward to the move as a new adventure.