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Javier Valdivielso Odriozola

From Cervantes to Almodóvar

Sándor Laczkó
November 27, 2019

Instituto Cervantes, a public entity established by the government of Spain in 1991, has been promoting Spanish language and culture in Hungary for 15 years. Headquartered in Madrid and Alcalá de Henares - the hometown of writer Miguel de Cervantes -, the institute is a bastion of Spanish and Latin American culture worldwide.

In Hungary, Instituto Cervantes offers an extensive program showcasing the best of the literature, cinematography and performing arts of the Spanish speaking world. Working closely with an extensive network of Hungarian, Spanish and Latin American institutions as well as other European cultural institutes, it promotes cultural cooperation through a diversity of activities.

Colorful cultural creativity
The last decade of the 20th century brought about an era of economic and artistic revival in Spain. Javier Valdivielso Odriozola, Director of the Cervantes Institute in Budapest, recalls that at the time of the establishment of the Institute “in the 1990s, Spanish society was living in a period of tremendous modernization. After the country became a member of NATO and the European Union in 1980s, the Olympic Games in Barcelona and the Universal Exposition of Seville in 1992 were two occasions that showed the world the great potential of Spain. The economy was growing, large infrastructure investments were underway, and a colorful cultural creativity was present everywhere. In those times, Instituto Cervantes was the tool to show this modern and democratic Spain to the world.” Riding on the waves of this exuberant environment, the 2004 opening of Instituto Cervantes in Budapest as a cultural center came at a moment when the institute was boosting its presence in Central and Eastern Europe. King Felipe and Queen Leticia inaugurated it in the presence of the then Hungarian President Ferenc Mádl and his wife Dalma.

The ultimate place for learning the language
Every year, more than 80,000 people sign up for Spanish courses at Cervantes Institutes operated worldwide. Hungary is no exception; one of the main activities of the Budapest institute is teaching Spanish. “We have our own academic curriculum and we are the reference for Spanish language in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Currently, we have sixteen teachers coming from Spain, Argentina and other Spanish speaking countries. Also, we offer Hungarian language courses for foreigners with Hispanic roots and special courses and workshops relating to language and culture,” the Director explains.

Cultural activities with vision
According to Javier Valdivielso Odriozola, the cultural program of the Institute is a representative melange of all the arts. “We focus our work on Spanish culture, with all the plurality of our country (in Catalan, Basque and Galician). And we have the Hispanic vision including the cultures of all the countries that use Spanish as the official language. We try to open our cultural program to the entire Hungarian society, our Library ‘Ernesto Sabato’ (named after a fundamental and terrific exponent of Argentinean literature) is the biggest Hispanic library in Hungary and we organize literary and poetry clubs there.”
The Instituto Cervantes is the Spanish cultural center in Hungary. “Our goal is to present the Spanish and the Hispanic culture and to cooperate and collaborate with the Hungarian cultural network,” he notes. The large variety of cultural offerings by Instituto Cervantes in November includes a roundtable discussion on El Greco’s art of painting with Leticia Ruiz, the curator of the Prado Museum, a guitar performance by the Duo con Fuoco and an exhibition by Chilean painter and illustrator Marcela Trujilo, organized in cooperation with the Embassy of Chile in Hungary.

Expansionary plans
The Director believes that the cultural dialogue between Hungary and Spain is one of the most positive relationships between the two countries and the Institute is able to fill gaps in cultural relations between Hungary and the Spanish speaking countries. “At Instituto Cervantes, we support the training of Hungarian teachers of Spanish and Hispanic culture. We also work to facilitate the translations of Spanish and Hispanic works in literature, cinema and other arts.” In the future, the Institute plans to organize cultural activities in cities in the countryside in addition to Budapest. “We want to be Instituto Cervantes for Hungary.”

Sándor Laczkó

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