Literatura y Cultura: Studying Spanish

Sam Savello ‘18, Brown University

I was a Hispanic Literature and Culture major at Brown. It’s basically like an English major, but everything we read and wrote was in Spanish. The curriculum was very diverse: we analyzed Latin American film and poetry, studied the history of Spain, and delved into Spanish-English translation. I learned a lot about Spanish and Latin America culture, including topics such as immigration policies, stereotypes, identity issues, and traditions. 

Choosing Spanish

At the end of my freshman year, the only class I had actually enjoyed was my Spanish class. In high school, I loved taking AP Spanish, so my advisor suggested I continue taking Spanish classes and see what happened. I didn’t really think it would become my major, but I ended up falling in love with it. 

Favorite class

I enjoyed so many of my classes, but my favorite was called “Hispanics in the US”. The class explored the immigration trends of Latin Americans living in the US. We studied various Latinx-driven civil rights movements and the literature that surrounded them. We read the work “Puerto Rican Obituary” by Pedro Pietri, a slam poem that discusses the experience of Puerto Rican immigrants living in New York and the issues they faced as they navigated a new country. This is what inspired my senior thesis.

Favorite project

My favorite project was my thesis. It was so interesting to explore Nuyorican (New York-Puerto Rican) poetry. I got to sit down and interview Noel Quiñones, who is a big name in the Nuyorican poetry space. In his poem “8 Confessions of my Tongue,” he discusses his identity struggles and explains how out of place he feels in the Latinx community because he doesn’t know Spanish. I spoke with him out his identity struggle and how he feels stuck between two islands: Manhattan and Puerto Rico. It was an incredible experience and I learned a lot about myself and my family’s experience as well. 

Making friends

I think the other students and I liked the major because it was very intimate and the professors were incredible. We had so many amazing classes to choose from and because they were so small, we had the opportunity to share our ideas with one another and really engage in a language, that for many of us, was not our first.

Career paths

Hispanic Culture and Literature provides students with a strong set of critical thinking and communication skills that can be applied to a variety of occupations. Communications, marketing, translation, and international relations are just a few options for career paths. Knowing a second language will help in almost any job field and can help lead to more opportunities in international locations. 

Similar majors

One closely related major is comparative literature. It’s pretty much the same thing except it involves studying literature in three different languages. There’s also Latin American Studies, where you study about Latin America but can take most of your classes in English. Ethnic Studies and American Studies are two majors that are also relevant, as they deal largely with social issues, cultural representation and history. 

Tips for future Spanish majors

Don’t feel intimidated. There might be students who grew up speaking Spanish in a lot of your classes, but if it’s not your first language, don’t feel like you can’t do it. It’s a learning process and it really helps you to build up your confidence and refine your communication skills. Studying abroad can be a great way to do this too. You’ll gain hands-on experience within the Spanish-speaking world and allow you to fully immerse yourself in a new culture.