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ON THE THRESHOLD
On Friday evening of Thanksgiving week, 1915, at the call of the writer, there gathered in a small dining room in a hotel in New York City a group of men bent on establishing an Association of teachers of Spanish. Dr. H. E. Bard, now secretary of the PanAmerican Association, presided at the meeting. A letter of encouragement was read from Professor Ramón Menéndez Pidal of Madrid. Speeches were made by several of those present, and a committee was appointed with power to draw up a constitution. That committee met at once and agreed upon the points to be incorporated. For some reason still unexplained, the chairman of the committee failed to call a second meeting, though many of those whom the committee represented were very desirous that the organization planned should be definitely established. This was a matter of great disappointment to all.
Two years passed. Again the clans were assembled. This was at a Saturday luncheon, October 21, 1916. This time the institutions represented were chiefly the local high schools and the College of the City of New York. Thirty-one were present, ten of whom were women. This time, lest plans should again come to naught, a constitution was prepared in advance and after considerable discussion and some changes it was adopted. Mr. L. A. Wilkins was chosen president, Dr. Alfred Coester of Commercial High School, Vice-President, Miss Herlinda G. Smithers of Bay Ridge High School, Secretary-Treasurer, and Mr. M. A. Luria, Corresponding Secretary. The society was called the Association of Teachers of Spanish. Enthusiasm and earnestness were mani
fest at this meeting in an unusual degree. That the Association was at least established brought us all much joy.
For the November meeting Dr. E. L. Stevenson, Acting Director of The Hispanic Society of America, after consultation with Mr. Archer M. Huntington, the president of that society, offered us the use of the hall in the museum of that institution. Professor Federico de Onís of Columbia University was the speaker. Interest in the meeting was very great and the attendance was large.
The next meeting, that of January, 1917, was held in the same building. Dr. Peter H. Goldsmith, Director of the Pan-American Division of the American Association for International Conciliation spoke, in Spanish, upon his trip through South America where he went to present, in the name of the Association for Conciliation, a library of North American books to the Museo Social Argentino of Buenos Aires. His address was remarkably well prepared and exceptionally interesting. At the close of the program of the day Mr. Huntington, quite unexpectedly to us, appeared, accompanied by His Excellency the Spanish Ambassador to Washington, Sr. Juan Riaño y Gayangos. Sr. Riaño consented to speak to the Association and in his very charming manner offered us assurances of his sympathetic co-operation. He also accepted Honorary Membership in the Association.
Meanwhile as the year had progressed many outside of New York had manifested unusual interest in what our local society was doing. The suggestion came from several quarters, especially from California and the Middle West, that this local Association be made the nucleus of a National Association. To form such an organization seemed a rather stupendous undertaking, but on the basis of the good old saying that El que no se atreve no pasa el mar, we decided to make the venture. After considerable correspondence with Professor Espinosa the writer sent out on April 4 a circular letter to about 150 teachers in different parts of the country, suggesting a National Association and making a tentative slate of committees to work toward the founding of such a society. The replies were astonishingly prompt, enthusiastic and confirmatory of the proposed plan. Hence at the meeting of April 14 the first steps were taken to form the Association. A temporary organization as a national society was effected. The appointment of committees
mentioned in the circular of April 4 was ratified, as were also the plans for the publication of a quarterly journal to be known as Hispania. These committees were: Membership, Dr. Alfred Coester, Chairman, 17 members; Nominations, Professor John D. Fitz-Gerald, Chairman, 16 members; Constitution, Professor Ventura Fuentes, Chairman, 15 members; Publications, Professor A. M. Espinosa, Chairman, 12 members. Those slated in the circular of April 14 as temporary officers were formally elected as such, to hold office till January, 1918. They were: President, Lawrence A. Wilkins, Board of Education, New York City; First VicePresident, Professor Rudolph Schevill, University of California; Second Vice-President, Professor John D. Fitz-Gerald, University of Illinois; Third Vice-President, Professor Charles P. Wagner, University of Michigan; Secretary-Treasurer, Dr. Alfred Coester, Commercial High School, Brooklyn, N. Y. The Association elected as the two Honorary Presidents Mr. Archer M. Huntington of New York and Mr. Juan C. Cebrián of San Francisco.
The next meeting was a short business session held in connection with the meeting of the local Association on May 19, when the first declamation contest for High School students of Spanish was held. It was then voted to take as a name for the society The American Association of Teachers of Spanish. The temporary president was authorized to appoint the editors of Hispania and to take the steps necessary for carrying out the plans of the organization. He announced the appointment of Professor Espinosa of Leland Stanford Junior University as editor and reserved appointment of others till a later date.
On May 21, 1917, a circular stating the purposes of the new National Association and inviting those interested to become members was sent out by the Committee on Membership to about 2850 teachers of Spanish in the high schools and colleges of the land. Of this list, necessarily a defective one, about 600 persons have applied for membership, either annual or life, and it is believed that within a year we shall be able to count a round thousand in our ranks. This is a remarkable start. This success would seem to indicate that the Association has been formed at the "psychological moment" and that all teachers of Spanish realize that an excellent opportunity is offered for concerted unity in an educational field
which is growing so rapidly that its unorganization threatens to become disorganization and confusion.
We are under a debt of gratitude, which it will be difficult to discharge, to Mr. Huntington and to Mr. Cebrián for most generously providing us with funds with which to effect an organization. Expenses have been unavoidably large, chiefly for postage and printing, and without the help of these gentlemen our efforts would have been greatly hampered if not entirely nullified. To both of them the temporary president wishes at this time to express also his hearty thanks for many constructive suggestions and advice. We are peculiarly fortunate in having as our Honorary Presidents men so far-famed as patrons of things Hispanic.
To the members and especially to the chairmen of the four committees our thanks are due for many long hours of work and unflagging enthusiasm. As for our journal Hispania, it is being launched under the general editorship of probably our most enthusiastic fellow-member, Professor Espinosa. He is assuming a heavy responsibility, all for the love of the work. He deserves our heartiest co-operation and help. He and all of us are very glad that he will have associated with him as Consulting Editors two of our greatest Hispanists, Professor Fitz-Gerald and Professor Ford. And the Board of Associate Editors will, beyond a shadow of doubt, help form and support with unfailing zeal and co-operation the editorial policy set for Hispania. Both the high school and the college field are well represented in that Board.
So much as a resumen of the past. What of the future with its hopes and plans?
We stand at the threshold of new things in modern languages in the school and college world. Never before in the United States has there been in the field of modern languages such a breaking of the idols, such a groping for readjustment of ideas, such a need of new nation-wide orientation as that which we see at present. And in all this flux and shifting there stands forth at least one great salient fact, the trend toward the study of Spanish in all our high schools and colleges.
For generations German has, due to tradition and propaganda, been the major foreign language in our curricula. It is losing, for
obvious reasons and for reasons not so obvious, its predominant place and there are those who believe that it should not and never again will occupy that strong place it once held in our program of study. French, the language of that great republic so long maligned as decadent and unworthy, has like the nation which speaks that language, risen to a place of greater respect and popularity than it has ever before occupied in the minds of citizens of the United States. It will be taught more and more in our schools. But it has remained for Spanish to make such strides in growth as have never been made before by any language. The demand for opportunities to study Spanish equal to those now offered in French and German is tremendous and growing every day. This creates a situation of very great interest to all modern language teachers and one that is of surpassing moment to us teachers of Spanish.
It is fitting to ask at this point, what has caused the marked renascence of interest in Spanish during the past four years? An examination into the underlying reasons will be of help in determining the stability and worth of the movement.
In the first place, the renascence has been due to stimulus from the business world. The opening of the Panama Canal, the demand in South America since August, 1914, for our capital and the much greater need here than before of South American raw material,— hides, sugar, coffee, etc., the Pan-American Financial Congress, the establishment of the International High Commission, its trip through South America and its labors toward systematization of bank discounts, credits, consular invoices, etc., the establishment in * Hispanic America of nine branches of the National City Bank of New York authorized by the Federal Reserve law of the United States, the growth in shipping facilities between our ports and those of South America, as, for instance, the recent establishment of a direct line of five steamers between New York and Valparaiso,— all of these things are either causes or effects of the, for us, rather well-concerted effort to "capture the South American trade." It is true, of course, that much of the success we are enjoying in our increased commerce with South America is due to peculiarly favoring conditions. War has broken down the competition which we would have otherwise met. But the fact remains that all these