This semester, I decided to participate in OU’s Spanish club. I loved OU Cousins, which I was a member of last year, but I unfortunately did not think I would have time this semester for both clubs. I wish I had known in advance that Spanish club would not demand very much of my time, as I might have been able to do both.
The club meetings don’t typically last more than half an hour, and are usually only every few weeks. I expected these meetings to be in Spanish, but they are not—I guess this makes sense, as the club is open to all students, not just those studying Spanish. However, we still learn about Spanish and Hispanic culture, especially through events! For instance, for the past few years the Spanish club has organized a “Tomatina” event, which is held in honor of the actual Tomatina festival that occurs annually in Valencia, Spain. Interestingly, no one knows for sure how the tradition originated. One popular theory is that a group of townspeople once rebelled by throwing rotten tomatoes at city councilmen during a celebration, and that the mock-rebellion was so enjoyed by the townspeople that it was repeated year after year. When Francisco Franco came into power as the dictator of Spain (in 1936), he promptly banned the festival because it was not religious. However, it surprisingly came back full force after his death in the 1970’s. Today, it has only grown in popularity and is even considered a notable tourist attraction. Although it only lasts an hour, the mess is so great that the streets need to be cleaned afterward with firehoses. However, the city council doesn’t mind—the acidity of the tomatoes actually cleanses the cobblestone streets of the festival very effectively.
Since the tradition restarted in the 70’s, it has caught on in numerous other cities and even countries. It has been adopted by Costa Rica, Colombia, and several locations in the United States. For instance, there is a version of it in Colorado that is considered a show-down between Coloradans and Texans. OU’s own Tomatina (unfortunately) does not involve actual tomatoes. However, red water balloons are used as the next best thing. It certainly wasn’t as big as the real festival, but I still enjoyed it! The Spanish club invited other students to throw the water balloons at each other on Walker-Adams Mall one afternoon in October, and from what I could tell everyone had fun!
I was not able to attend see it this year as I had family visiting, but the Spanish club also creates a display for “El Día de los Muertos,” a Mexican celebration of the dead. The display is put up in Kaufman Hall (where we meet) and imitates a traditional altar that is commonly created to honor those who have passed away. I really appreciate that the club acknowledges different Spanish-speaking cultures, and tries to give members (and the whole OU community) a taste of diverse celebrations and traditions.
Spanish club also arranges several movie nights each semester. I recently attended the presentation of Pan’s Labyrinth, a film that I hadn’t seen since I was very young. It was interesting to re-watch it, especially because I am now able to understand the cultural and historical references of the movie much better than when I was a child. I also appreciated that it was a Guillermo del Toro film, as my Spanish class has been studying the Mexican director and his work. In fact, I was able to see quite a few similarities between Pan’s Labyrinth and Cronos, a movie of his that we recently watched for class.
I will certainly be sticking with Spanish club, and am excited to see what kinds of events are planned for the spring semester. I might even consider running for an officer position in the future, provided that I have enough time. I would like to be able to put together events for others interested in Spanish cultures, and I definitely enjoy meeting other students that share my love for Spanish!