The Hispanic Institute Between the Wars: The Making of Cultural Networks

Foundation: Between Wars, Diplomacy, and New Markets > Federico De Onís

Photograph of Federico de Onís with other professors. Photograph recto

In 1923, the Romance Languages Department invited a corps of foreign professors to give a series of courses during the Summer Sessions. Standing (left to right): Profs. Federico de Onís, Raoul Blanchard, Edouard Le Roy, and J. L. Gerig. Seated (left to right): Profs. Joseph Bédier, Emile Bourgeois, Giuseppe Prezzolini, and Paul Hazard.

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In the mid-10s, the demand for Spanish and Hispanic culture courses in the United States experienced exponential growth due to two main reasons. On the one hand, the incipient development of markets and industry in Latin America - marked by the opening of the Panama Canal - placed the continent as a new promise of commercial relations; on the other, the outbreak of World War I drastically reduced the demand for courses in other languages of European origins, especially German. Upon arriving in New York, De Onís saw in this emerging context an opportunity to combine Spain’s project of internationalization and cultural revitalization with the economic and political expansionism of the United States in Latin America.

In addition to his academic work at Columbia, Federico de Onís served as an official delegate of the Junta para Ampliación de Estudios of the Spanish Ministry of Public Instruction. His position as an official delegate of Spain in the United States made Federico de Onís an international agent who mediated and actively collaborated in the diplomatic interests of both countries.

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