Politics: The Hispanic Institute in Spanish Civil War and WWII
The appearance of political factors in the history of the Institute became especially visible with the establishment of the Spanish Second Republic (1931), the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), and the Second World War (1939-1945). With the tragic fate of German teachers during World War I still fresh in memory, Spanish and foreign language schools in the United States feared that taking a political position would damage the academic prestige they had achieved. For this reason, they chose to enhance the cultural value of their content and do everything possible to keep politics out of the classroom. The Hispanic Institute was no exception. A Spain at war was in open contradiction with the idea of Ibero-American unity and harmony that the Institute celebrated every year in its various activities and with special emphasis through the Fiesta de la Lengua.
Although not organized by the Institute, but by the American Medical Bureau, this benefit evening is an example of various events in support of the Spanish Republic that were held in New York during the Spanish Civil War. The AMB was a humanitarian aid institution associated with the Lincoln Battalion, providing medical services and lodging to Republican fighters who had been wounded in battle.
Despite the Institute's neutral position, with the establishment of the Spanish Second Republic and the subsequent Spanish Civil War, teachers could not help but be affected and express their position in the face of these events. In this letter written a few months after the establishment of the República, Carolina Marcial Dorado, Spanish professor and founder of the Spanish Department at Barnard College, communicates to the Dean her decision to stay in Spain to "assist in the remodeling of the country." She, therefore, asks for a year leave from Barnard without salary and details all the necessary arrangements to make this possible.
This impressive letter was written in Spain a few months after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War by Caridad Rodríguez-Castellano, a Spanish professor at Barnard College. As if she were a true war correspondent, Rodríguez-Castellano describes to Dean Gildersleeve the development of the conflict with extraordinary precision, evoking the day-to-day battles in all their intensity.
In this letter written in the middle of the Spanish Civil War and addressed to the poet Antonio Machado and Professor Navarro Tomás, Federico de Onís declares his solidarity with the government of the Second República and his rejection of totalitarian regimes.