Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
Reporter: Helena Rodriguez
PORTALES—Valentine's Day is a day dedicated to romance. But the day before, Friday, Feb. 13, will be a day dedicated to romantic Latin languages.
More than 500 high school students from around New Mexico are expected to participate in the annual Festival Romanico at Eastern New Mexico University. Schools confirmed so far include: Clovis High School, Clovis Christian School, Portales High School, Jal High School, Artesia High School, Lovington High School, Carlsbad High School, Muleshoe High School, Texico High School, Dexter High School, Tucumcari High School and Bovina High School. Several others are tentative.
The daylong event will run from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Becky Sharp Auditorium located in the College of Business and in the Campus Union Ballroom (CUB). The public is invited.
Students from at least 15 high schools will compete in Spanish poetry recitation, essay, original skits, video and talent competitions. A display of arts and crafts will also be exhibited in the Sandia Room in the CUB.
ENMU students will serve as judges. "The whole festival is a celebration of being bilingual. Bilingualism is an
asset to your life," said Dr. Vitelio Contreras, an assistant professor of Spanish at ENMU who has served as director of the festival for the past five years.
Contreras is disappointed that this year no French-speaking students will compete in the festival as they have done in the past. Dr. Margaret Willen, a retired ENMU professor of French, started the festival 22 years ago.
"I don't want this to become just a Spanish festival. We hope to have French students next year," Contreras added. He is, however, excited this year about a newly created $500 scholarship which will be awarded to a student planning to attend ENMU. He said a winner would likely be chosen out of essays that students write.
ENMU's newly formed ballet folklorico will also perform traditional Mexican dances. Contreras noted that competition between schools at the festival has grown over the years.
Spanish competitions at Festival Romanico will be broken down into two classifications, for native and non-native Spanish speakers.
According to another event organizer, Dr. Mary Ayala, assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a professor of modern languages, the festival has seen a growth in recent years in non-native, Spanish
"It is fascinating to see the enthusiasm and skill that these young people bring to language studies," Ayala said. "Especially when that language is one that is new to them."
Contreras stressed the importance of being bilingual in today's society, but noted that the romance languages go all the way back to before the fall of the Roman Empire.
"When the Roman Empire was conquered, Latin spread throughout Europe," Contreras said. "Although Latin itself is a dead language now, at least 50 percent of Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian is Latin."