When Mario Chandler took his first Spanish class back in the eighth grade, he never imagined that he would someday travel to Spain himself to tour the palace of Valladolid and the Moat Castle in Medina del Campo or the University of of Madrid. On June 3 Chandler, 28, an assistant professor of Spanish at UAB will do just that, embarking on a two-week research trip to Spain to study the black presence in that country.
Chandler’s love of languages goes back to his early childhood growing up in Atlanta. “I was always trying to learn different languages,” Chandler said. “Then when my family moved to Atlanta, one of my closest friends in high school was from Cuba. He would invite me to his home for family gatherings and to different cultural events. I learned a few basic words and greetings in Spanish. And so whenever I rode the bus and heard someone speaking Spanish, I would join their conversation and try to speak with them.”
An engaging high school teacher also encouraged his interest in Spanish. “Her love for the language was contagious,” Chandler said. “Through her, I was exposed to the vitality of the Spanish language and to the diversity of Hispanic cultures. Spanish and the diverse cultures throughout the world that speak it--whether in the Americas, in Africa or in Spain--are like precious jewels whose discovery, for me, has been a priceless and life-changing find.”
After high school, Chandler studied at Iowa State University and participated in a study abroad program at the Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey in Mexico and at the University of Valladolid in Spain. In graduate school at the University of Georgia in Athens, Chandler traveled to such places as the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama and North Africa for his research. He earned his doctorate in Romance Languages in 1999.
Chandler’s research interests include the obscure presence of Afro-Hispanic themes in literatures of medieval and renaissance Spain and per-modern and contemporary Spanish literature and society. His most recent publication, “Spanish Sambos or Masked El Dorado: Peninsular Precursors of an American Icon,” will appear in the summer 2000 volume of the journal Revista Mongrafica.
During his two weeks in Spain, Chandler will travel to several cities and towns across Spain, from the capital city of Madrid to Granada and Valladolid. He’ll visit libraries and universities and museums such as the University of Granada. He also will interview black residents from Equatorial Guinea, the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa about what life has been like living in Spain.
Besides Spanish, Chandler’s other interests include writing poetry -- in English, that is. “I’ve found that it’s complicated to create literature in another language,” Chandler said. Chandler also enjoys swimming, traveling, watching foreign films and taking care of his new Siamese kitten, Asad.