CULTURE AND EDUCATION
The Círculo proposes to fulfill its mission by fostering diverse and representative cultural, social, and educational activities in collaboration with other educational, civic and cultural institutions at local, regional and state levels.
On September 18, 1978, a group of Spanish speaking members of the College of Charleston and MUSC, met at the Salinas’ residence to discuss forming a Hispanic/Latin organization. Círculo Hispanoamericano de Charleston (Círculo) was born on October 12, 1978, at a dinner in Blacklock House, College of Charleston with 80 invited guests. Carlos Salinas and María Asunción Córdova-Salinas established an important collaboration with Dr. Virginia Benmaman, Dr. Jorge Marbán, and Mrs. Elizabeth Ochoa. The first board of directors was made up of: Dr. Carlos F. Salinas, President; Dr. Carlos Lamar, Treasurer; Dr. María Asunción Córdova-Salinas, Coordinator; and Drs. Virginia Benmaman and Jorge Marbán, Directors. To commemorate this important event, Círculo Hispanoamericano donated a framed picture of Christopher Columbus (donated by the Embassy of Spain) to the Department of Languages, College of Charleston. Since its foundation, Círculo has celebrated the richness of Hispanic/Latin culture. The alliance with local and regional organizations has helped give visibility to the diversity of this group and to motivate their participation in the political and civil life of this community.
During its more than 40 years serving the community, Círculo has been involved in a good number of activities. Among the most outstanding to remember are Círculo’s participation in “Neighbor Day, Piccolo Spoleto Finale” organized by the City of Charleston, Office of Cultural Affairs, with cultural shows by participating countries. Notable among these were the artists and artisans of Southwest Colombia, in collaboration with the partners of the Americas, and other cultural demonstrations by Spanish speaking countries. This event presented shows and dances by the different countries represented in this region, including China, the Philippines, India, France, Poland, Greece, Tibet, and other international organizations interested in culture and representation. Our flamenco and Mexican dancers were among the most popular and celebrated. Círculo continued participating with Neighbor Day until its dissolution in 1994, as part of the organizing committee of Piccolo Spoleto. Another relevant activity was preparing for the arrival of the Spanish school vessel “Sebastián Elcano” with the City’s organizing committee. On the 10th anniversary of Círculo, the City declared “Círculo Hispanoamericano de Charleston Day”.
In 1992 Círculo’s president Dr. Carlos F. Salinas was invited to chair the City of Charleston Organizing 1992 Committee. The arrival of the Replicas of the Three Caravels of Columbus, organized by this committee in conjunction with the 1992 Committee of the Spanish Government, attracted visitors from North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. The Spanish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jorge Burgos, performed at the Gaillard Auditorium in collaboration with The Citadel Arts Committee. The Cultural Attaché from the Spanish Embassy attended this concert and brought a commemorative message from the Queen Sophia of Spain. He also participated in the opening of a show at a city gallery of pictures of “Centuries of Spanish Architecture”. During this event he awarded the winners of the Spanish Poetry Contest for high school students. The “Circulo Hispanoamericano de Charleston Fellowship Award” was also created in 1993. The first winner was Walter Morales, a student in the Department of Music at the College of Charleston from Costa Rica. Today Walter is a well-known conductor of the Costa Rica Symphony, working there as well as in other countries.
In collaboration with Education Entities, in 1984 Círculo worked together with the College of Charleston (Dr. Jorge Marbán) and Porter-Gaud School (Dr. Maxwell Mowry), in the Spanish Poetry Contest for high school students. This collaboration continued later with The Citadel (Dr. Mark Del Mastro) and was extended to include higher education students. Conferences were organized featuring among others Dr. Albert Sabin, “My Experiences Working with Latin American Countries”; Dr. Jorge Marbán, “Federico García Lorca, his poetry”; Dr. Virginia Benmaman, “Interpreting and the Edition of a Legal Dictionary for Spanish Speaking Countries”; Dr. Lala Preble, “Women in Latin American Literature”, and Dr. José Benmamam, “Maimonides”. Civic conferences were presented by General Consuls of Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, and Spain, and Mayor Joe Riley. Members of Círculo offered conferences on “Our Countries’ and professors of MUSC presented Medical Issues for the General Public. In 1996, The Citadel thanked the founders of Círculo Hispanoamericano de Charleston, naming them honorary members of the National Spanish Society Sigma Delta Pi, Chapter Tau Iota.
The Círculo’s mission has continued under the leadership of presidents such as Eyda Arroyave, Celina Ponce Anthony and Paula Tejeda, responsible for such events as the invitation of the General Secretary of the Organization of American States, Hon. Jose Miguel Insula, and those of the consuls from Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and the ambassador of Chile. In addition, the Círculo sponsored talks by Dr. Fernando Colón-Navarro, lawyer, and by film director Eduardo Lopez and the presentation of his “The Harvest of the Empire”. Sonia Nazario also reviewed her book “Enrique’s Journey and American Immigration” at the Charleston School of Law.
The Círculo organized in 2016 the first art exhibit by Hispanic/Latino artists (Hispanic/Latino Art Exhibition) in the city of North Charleston. Among other activities sponsored are the donation of Spanish books, cultural exhibits in local schools, community events, photography exhibits from Perú and Mexico, civic events to register new voters, and the presentation of the Chilean cantata “Canto general siglo XXI” as part of the Piccolo Spoleto. Furthermore, some members of the Círculo, such as Paula Tejeda, also a member of the City of Charleston Relations Subcommittee, has been appointed co-director of the committee on public relations. Dr. María A. Salinas-Córdova was a member for the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the foundation of Charleston and is very active in her pursuit of registering more Hispanic/Latino voters through the efforts of the League of Women Voters.
In the post pandemic times the Círculo has reorganized itself. After the showing of the Spanish film by Emilio Martínez-Lázaro, “Ocho apellidos vascos” (2014), at the Terrace Theater, it offered in 2022 a series of two films at the Charleston County Library by Spanish producer Icíar Bollaín, “Las flores de otro mundo”(Flowers of Another World”, 1999), moderated by Dr. Asela R. Laguna and “También la Lluvia/Even the Rain”,( 2010), introduced and discussed by Dr. Glorimar Blanco.
For the first time the Circulo applied for and received a grant from the South Carolina Humanities to sponsor the establishment of the Círculo’s first annual Hispanic Heritage Keynote Lecture Series, with the purpose of sharing with the Charleston community cutting-edge research and knowledge on topics related to the historical and cultural contributions of the diverse Spanish-speaking countries and Hispanic/Latino communities by leading experts. The lecture will take place every year during the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. The inaugural speaker for the series (September 22, 2022) was leading research professor, and head of the South Carolina Institute for Archeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina, Dr. Chester dePratter, who spoke about “Spanish exploration and settlement in the southeastern United States, 1514-1587” centering also on the founding of St. Elena’s fort and settlement in Parris Island, South Carolina.
Last April 13, 2023, a new series of informal talks that was supposed to have started during the Heritage Month 2022 but had to be postponed because of the weather finally took place. Professor emerita Asela R. Laguna spoke at the College of Charleston about “The Earthquake of Charleston in the Journalistic Imaginary of José Martí” where besides framing Martí’s chronicle within the field of the literature of natural disasters, and talking about the relationship between earthquakes, literature and journalism, she shared the city images Maríi constructed and transmitted in said chronicle about Charleston, its landscape and population to the Argentinian readership of the end of the Nineteenth century.
path to success
1993: Walter Morales, College of Charleston
1994: Miguel Contreras, Medical University of South Carolina
1995: Not awarded
1996: Florencia Di Concilio: College of Charleston
1997: Silvia García Gasca: Medical University of South Carolina
1998: not awarded
1999: Arturo Alcántara, The Citadel
2000: Not awarded
2001: Not awarded
2002: Marco Sartor, College of Charleston
2003: Javier Robalino, Medical University of South Carolina
Freddy Morales, The Citadel
Enrique Bernardo, College of Charleston
2004: Cristina Reyes, Medical University of South Carolina
2005: Ana Miranda, Charleston Southern University
2006: Vivian Lopez-Polanco, Trident Technical College
2007: Jonathan Rodriguez, The Citadel
2008: Keith Beltrán, College of Charleston
2009: Mildred Docket, Medical University of South Carolina
2010: Erik Myhres, Medical University of South Carolina
2011: Evelyn Palomo-Siliezar, Charleston School of Law
2012: Gladys Sujey Reyes, Charleston Southern University
2013: Juan José Villar, Medical University of South Carolina
2014: José Jaramillo, College of Charleston
2015: Reina Mamani, Trident Technical College
2016: Rachel Olvera, The Citadel
2017: Norma Barajas y Patricia Rivera, Charleston School of Law
2018: Christy A. González, Charleston Southern University
2019: Mariana Obando Velez, Medical University of South Carolina
2020: Not awarded
2021: Jerónimo Ortega, College of Charleston
2022: José García, Trident Technical College