Spanish at Aston

In the heart of the exciting and vibrant city of Birmingham

Summer is around the corner…

Summer is around the corner and the Spanish Section is currently wrapping up the academic year. It has been a year full of activities, hard work and recognition. Although we are very sad to have to say goodbye to our Class of 2016, we are extremely proud of them. They have put up a great effort and all of us –the lecturers– have had the chance to read outstanding pieces of research. It has been an honour to have them around and to have been part of their education. Good luck with everything the future may bring you, and hope you keep in touch. ¡¡¡HASTA MUY PRONTO!!!

We have also had to say “adiós” to five wonderful colleagues: Maritza Carrasco-Marchessi, Manuel Mayoral-Durán, Patricia Moro, Daniel Mourenza-Urbina, and Aurelio Ramos. Their superb teaching skills, their collegiality, and their professionalism will be greatly missed. ¡GRACIAS POR TODO Y MUCHA SUERTE!

Aurelio Ramos Caballero joined Aston in 2007 as Teaching Associate. He has been a key member of the Spanish team, teaching a broad range of modules. Aurelio’s teaching was always praised by students and colleagues, and his ability to engage students with learning Spanish highly recognised. ¡WE WILL MISS YOU, COMPAÑERO!

Last September 2015, the Spanish Section welcomed a new member of staff, Dr Pablo Calderón-Martínez. Pablo’s expertise in contemporary Latin American, Spanish politics, economy and social issues has made possible to incorporate a wide-range of key topics to our modules. We are very pleased to have him on board! Pablo is currently in the United States taking part in the Brown International Advanced Research Institute Conference at Brown University 4-18 June 2016 funded by Santander.

Due to his extensive research on current Spanish politics, Pablo was interviewed by the BBC and also organised a lunch-time discussion on the Spanish general elections (20th December), sharing his ideas about the new left-wing alternative, Podemos.
All in Spanish at Aston have been very active organising cultural and academic events.

Back in October 2015, we had the pleasure of welcoming two great Spanish writers: Kirmen Uribe and Jesús Carrasco. Kirmen Uribe talked about his experience as a writer in the Basque language, as a translator of some of his own work into Spanish, and also his books have been translated into a number of languages. He defines himself as “a poet of wide concerns, politically engaged, with an inclusive, humanist awareness and a direct, distinctive voice”. Jesús Carrasco explained what motivates him as a writer and gave us some hints about the novel he has recently published and Raquel Fernández-Sánchez is already reading (impatiently awaiting her review).

On April 14-16 2016 the First Biennial Conference Spanish Cinema: Gender and Ageing Studies was held at Aston University. Co-organised by Dr Raquel Medina (Aston), Dr Olga Castro (Aston), and Professor Barbara Zecchi (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), this conference gathered academics from around the world, as well as the scriptwriter Alicia Luna, the actress Elvira Minguez, the filmmaker Carla Subirana, and the scriptwriter and president of CIMA Virginia Yagüe. Core issues such as gender discrimination (sexism) and age discrimination (ageism) in Spanish cinema were explored and discussed.

May brought us the visit of the award-winning Spanish writer and social activist Belén Gopegui. Belén Gopegui discussed her notion of literature as social activism.
According to her, “most of my novels are about commonalities between the individual and the group. They try to counteract a widespread attitude in Spanish literature that consists in ‘defending politics while denigrating activism.’ People who are active, not only in political parties but also in groups or joint projects, place politics in a more important space than simply voting every four years.”

Undoubtedly this has been a great year for Spanish at Aston with regards to professional and teaching recognition. Daniel, Manuel, Olga and Stéphanie were all nominated to the Astonishing Aston Awards, and Dr Stéphanie Panichelli-Batalla was the winner of the Most Inspirational Academic Award in LSS. CONGRATULATIONS!

Dr Raquel Medina was the winner of the LSS Staff Poster Competition marking the 50th anniversary of Aston. CONGRATULATIONS!

Finally, the end of the academic year brought to our colleague Dr Raquel Fernández- Sánchez a well-deserved award, Aston Achievement Award for Learning and Teaching.


We wish you all have a great summer… But above all, we wish our colleague Olga Castro a speedy recovery.

Our student Amy Hares shares her time in Valencia during Las Fallas


fallas and blighty


Saludos desde Inglaterra!

It’s been a little while, but I’m back in the glorious South of England with my family for the Easter Holidays. But I realised that I hadn’t quite covered Las Fallas in my last post, so, here goes…



A few weeks ago in Valencia, we celebrated Las Fallas; a wonderfully loud and colourful festival exclusive to VLC that had been building up for about three weeks. There really is nothing like it, and it’s definitely something that you have to see. However, beware that the explosions seemed enough to be in the middle of a war, and the amount of 3 year olds throwing fireworks in the streets was enough to make me quiver in

Isn’t it humiliating when the Falla on the left has better eyebrows than you?

Also, if you haven’t lived in Spain, it’ll serve you well to know (just in case) that a party doesn’t start in Spain until about midnight. The street parties in my barrio during Fallas, right outside my bedroom window meant the DJ Juan and DJ Pedro didn’t turn off the Enrique Iglesias until 4AM. It wouldn’t have been too bad, but I’ve spent the majority of my time in Spain being ill (where are those violins?). Thus, by that time, I really had had enough.

But apart from the early morning fiestas and 3 year olds with fireworks, it really was fabulous. It really would never be allowed in The UK, there are too many killjoys.



For anyone who doesn’t have the slightest inkling of quite what Las Fallas is, I would say it’s similar to England’s Bonfire Night in the sense of setting light to things, but don’t hold me to that. It’s a Valencian tradition that celebrates the arrival of a new season, where past items are burnt in order to welcome the new. Huge Fallas are built, which are like big plastic statues, but artistic ones. These Fallas are put in the middle of the streets all over VLC to be gawped at by both locals and tourists. Roads all around the city are cut off and marching bands erupt in every corner of every district. Once you see how detailed and beautiful some of these Fallas are, you really do wonder why on earth would they be set alight? It’s ok, don’t get an emotional attachment… They build different ones every year.

The Fallas are all so immaculately detailed, it’s an incredible thing to see!

My Dad and Jill also came over for Fallas, which made for a really good weekend, especially for showing them around the city whilst it was at its most vibrant state. We put on our Valencian scarves and went to watch some incredible fireworks over the Turía, and the Fallas.

We found so many new parts of the city (I’ll be popping them on to my next post). We had such a lovely time and I was so happy to see them!

Finally, here’s some burning stuff.. 3 stages of burning!

After a short hop over Northern Spain and a skip over France, I arrived back in The UK for two weeks. I decided to come home during my second semester because I stayed in France for 6 months without coming home to the green, chilly island that will always be home. I missed it a lot.

I made a little impromptu trip to London with Lee for the Ideal Homes Exposition… And looked at all of the swimming pools that I can’t afford for the house that I don’t have. We went for a stroll to Buckingham Palace, Soho and Harrods, too. (I didn’t go for tea with The Queen, sorry to disappoint! )

Seeing as my dog missed the Fallas, I decided to make him become a Fallero for a day with a scarf… He doesn’t look too impressed, but it was for my own amusement… Sorry, Alfred!


I have just loved being at home with my parents and my dogs. I’ve had the loveliest time, and done a horrendous amount of shopping, an equally agonising amount of running, and absolutely no work:-):-):-).


I hope you enjoyed this post, it’s rather on the long side, what with all of the photos!

Gracias por leer, hasta la próxima!

Amy + Louie :-)



TODAY IS WORLD POETRY DAY AND SPANISH AT ASTON would like to share with all of you one of the first feminist poems in the Western world. The poem is by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a 17th Century Mexican/Spanish nun, scholar and poet.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Hombres necios que acusáis
a la mujer sin razón,
sin ver que sois la ocasión
de lo mismo que culpáis.

Si con ansia sin igual
solicitáis su desdén,
¿por qué queréis que obren bien
si las incitáis al mal?

Combatís su resistencia
y luego con gravedad
decís que fue liviandad
lo que hizo la diligencia.

Parecer quiere el denuedo
de vuestro parecer loco
al niño que pone el coco
y luego le tiene miedo.

Queréis con presunción necia
hallar a la que buscáis,
para pretendida, Tais,
y en la posesión, Lucrecia.

¿Qué humor puede ser más raro
que el que, falto de consejo,
él mismo empaña el espejo
y siente que no esté claro?

Con el favor y el desdén
tenéis condición igual,
quejándoos, si os tratan mal,
burlándoos, si os quieren bien.

Opinión ninguna gana,
pues la que más se recata,
si no os admite, es ingrata,
y si os admite, es liviana.

Siempre tan necios andáis
que con desigual nivel
a una culpáis por cruel
y a otra por fácil culpáis.

¿Pues cómo ha de estar templada
la que vuestro amor pretende,
si la que es ingrata ofende
y la que es fácil enfada?

Mas entre el enfado y pena
que vuestro gusto refiere,
bien haya la que no os quiere
y queja enhorabuena.

Dan vuestras amantes penas
a sus libertades alas
y después de hacerlas malas
las queréis hallar muy buenas.

¿Cuál mayor culpa ha tenido
en una pasión errada:
la que cae de rogada
o el que ruega de caído?

¿O cuál es más de culpar,
aunque cualquiera mal haga:
la que peca por la paga
o el que paga por pecar?

¿Pues para qué os espantáis
de la culpa que tenéis?
Queredlas cual las hacéis
o hacedlas cual las buscáis.

Dejad de solicitar
y después con más razón
acusaréis la afición
de la que os fuere a rogar.

Bien con muchas armas fundo
que lidia vuestra arrogancia,
pues en promesa e instancia
juntáis diablo, carne y mundo.

Trans.  (

Silly, you men-so very adept
at wrongly faulting womankind,
not seeing you’re alone to blame
for faults you plant in woman’s mind.

After you’ve won by urgent plea
the right to tarnish her good name,
you still expect her to behave—
you, that coaxed her into shame.

You batter her resistance down
and then, all righteousness, proclaim
that feminine frivolity,
not your persistence, is to blame.

When it comes to bravely posturing,
your witlessness must take the prize:
you’re the child that makes a bogeyman,
and then recoils in fear and cries.

Presumptuous beyond belief,
you’d have the woman you pursue
be Thais when you’re courting her,
Lucretia once she falls to you.

For plain default of common sense,
could any action be so queer
as oneself to cloud the mirror,
then complain that it’s not clear?

Whether you’re favored or disdained,
nothing can leave you satisfied.
You whimper if you’re turned away,
you sneer if you’ve been gratified.

With you, no woman can hope to score;
whichever way, she’s bound to lose;
spurning you, she’s ungrateful—
succumbing, you call her lewd.

Your folly is always the same:
you apply a single rule
to the one you accuse of looseness
and the one you brand as cruel.

What happy mean could there be
for the woman who catches your eye,
if, unresponsive, she offends,
yet whose complaisance you decry?

Still, whether it’s torment or anger—
and both ways you’ve yourselves to blame—
God bless the woman who won’t have you,
no matter how loud you complain.

It’s your persistent entreaties
that change her from timid to bold.
Having made her thereby naughty,
you would have her good as gold.

So where does the greater guilt lie
for a passion that should not be:
with the man who pleads out of baseness
or the woman debased by his plea?

Or which is more to be blamed—
though both will have cause for chagrin:
the woman who sins for money
or the man who pays money to sin?

So why are you men all so stunned
at the thought you’re all guilty alike?
Either like them for what you’ve made them
or make of them what you can like.

If you’d give up pursuing them,
you’d discover, without a doubt,
you’ve a stronger case to make
against those who seek you out.

I well know what powerful arms
you wield in pressing for evil:
your arrogance is allied
with the world, the flesh, and the devil!


“Siempre hay tiempo para Santa Marta” – former Spanish student at Aston, Gagan Aggarwal, tells about his experiences in El Salvador

I graduated from Aston University back in 2013 with a combined honours degree in Mathematics and Spanish. I stayed at Aston to complete a Masters in Mathematics but always knew that as soon as this was over I had to return to Latin America. I was accepted through ICS and Progressio onto a 10 week government funded programme allowing young people to volunteer and support a community abroad. I was fortunate to have been placed in the beautiful community of Santa Marta, El Salvador.

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Translation and Interpreting Career Paths and Opportunities at Aston University

The past 25th November the event ‘Translation and Interpreting Career Paths and Opportunities’ took place at Aston University. This proved to be an interesting event for students who are considering a (post)graduate degree in translation and/or interpreting, or those who simply wanted to find out more about the professions and the opportunities which these can yield.

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