“I am a blue-eyed, Caucasian woman. My parents were born in Germany and later on they settled in a German community in Paraguay. I was born and raised in Asuncion del Paraguay but I went to a German school, spoke German at home, watched German movies, and while growing up I spent my summer vacations in Germany. I don’t speak Spanish other than when I have to. I later emigrated to the U.S. Am I Hispanic?”Gustavo Fares, associate professor of Spanish and department chair, will put this riddle and several others to a group of Argentine graduate students this summer. Fares was recently awarded a Fulbright grant to return to his native Argentina to teach a 10-week graduate level seminar course at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, in the city of Mendoza. Along with government professor Mark Frazier, Fares is one of two professors to receive a Fulbright this spring.
Fares, born, raised, and educated in Argentina, will be teaching a once-weekly seminar on “Hispanic Identities in the United States.” While the topic is not, strictly speaking, Fares’ area of specialty – he is a scholar of Latin American art and literature – he said that working on it has been very interesting. He will look at the way Hispanics are depicted in literature, film, and art during the course.
“For the Fulbright, when you go to different countries, they try to match your area of expertise and the need of country,” said Fares, explaining why he will be lecturing on the topic of Hispanic identity. Institutions are often looking for American studies courses by scholars and other experts from American institutions.
Fares came to the U.S. in 1985 to pursue graduate studies and says that his immediate labeling as a “minority” and “Hispanic” interested him because those labels did not apply in Argentina. But it was precisely because of his origins that he was labeled. The concept of being “Hispanic” does not exist in Argentina and other areas from which “Hispanics,” as Americans conceive of them, come.
The concept of “Hispanics” in the U.S. is one of increasing importance, as Fares points out in his project statement. “Hispanic” groups have become the largest minority group in the U.S., a fact confirmed by the 2000 census. As Fares writes, “This growth in number and the desire and in influence have led to questions regarding the identity, or identities of those of those communities, as they struggle to maintain the traits that characterized them as different from the rest of the U.S. population while, at the same time, trying to become integrated into the mainstream society.”
While Fares says that the final product will be the teaching, he also said that he might have enough material from all of his preparatory research for an article. Works pertaining to the topic, written in Spanish, are extremely lacking according to Fares. “There is the need for some kind of comprehensive article or book in Spanish about the topic,” he said, “So that might be a long term plan.”
Fares came to Lawrence in 2000 after 11 years teaching both Spanish and art courses at Lynchburg College in Virginia. He holds degrees in law, painting and printmaking, foreign language studies, Latin American literature, and cultural studies. Besides his experience teaching, Fares spent two years practicing law in Argentina before continuing his graduate studies in painting, drawing, and art history.
Fares will leave for Argentina late in July and will be gone for the summer, returning in time for the fall term here at Lawrence. In that short time, he will conduct weekly four-hour sessions of his interdisciplinary seminar, likely to draw everyone, from government to art to literature to history students.