Foundation: Between Wars, Diplomacy, and New Markets
The arrival of Federico de Onís in 1916 entailed a turning point for Hispanic studies at Columbia University. By the time President Nicholas Butler invited him to organize Hispanic studies, De Onís stood out as a professor at the University of Salamanca. In addition, he worked as a researcher at the Centro de Estudios Históricos in Madrid, part of the Junta para Ampliación de Estudios –both of them state institutions that sought to revitalize Spain culturally after the loss of its last American colonies in 1898.
In his very first letter to De Onís, President Butler refers to the increase in demand for Spanish courses and declares his intention to make Columbia University a leading institution in this discipline: “There is a new interest in Spanish literature, Spanish history and Spanish civilization, and we desire very much to make Columbia University the leading center of Spanish studies in this continent.”