Embracing a Spanish language identity
by Sarah Binns, MCL volunteer
The passions of Fernando Rojas-Galvan center around something many of us in the library community appreciate: language. What sets Fernando apart is his embrace of two languages—English and Spanish—in almost every aspect of his life. As the facilitator for Kenton Library's Intercambio program, Ferrnando leads the weekly bilingual discussion group with patrons. He also helms Kenton Library’s Spanish-language book club, which meets four times a year.
“I’ve been a patron of Kenton since they opened,” Fernando says. He took over the book club a year ago and then started leading Intercambio. “I find it enjoyable and rewarding,” Fernando says. “It’s my opportunity to contribute to my local community; I think giving back is a key aspect of living in that community.”
Fernando also uses his Spanish as an instructor at Clatsop Community College (CCC) in Astoria. At CCC he develops his own curriculum: “I am the Spanish department at the college,” he says. He teaches everything from English as a second language to developmental English to a Latin American short story course. “To have the freedom to set up my curriculum and choose the books; it makes my job that much easier,” he says.
Along with teaching, reading inspires hope in Fernando: “Gosh, I read every day,” he says with a bit of wonder. “I find it as important as breathing, eating.” He became a reader in third grade, when he realized “I could do things my parents couldn’t do [because of the English language].”
Fernando was born in western Mexico and moved with his parents to Oregon as a toddler. Growing up, Fernando realized “Spanish language was part of my identity” and maintained his use of Spanish even while learning English. “I mention it because within three generations of immigrants you can lose the native language.” As a result, Fernando and his wife raise their two daughters and a son bilingually. “We do the best we can,” he says, “but we’re against society. The current political turmoil doesn’t foster [speaking Spanish]. It’s almost an act of resistance to speak another language in this country.” In the academic and library communities all languages should be encouraged and flourish; it’s heartening and hopeful to see how Fernando’s passion for Spanish can extend to the next generation and beyond.
A few facts about Fernando
Home library: Kenton Library
Currently reading: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I am also reading Patria by Paco Ignacio Taibo. I have a habit of reading up to six books at any given time. Once in a while I encounter a book that I read in a day or two.
Most influential book: El Túnel by Ernesto Sábato
Favorite section to browse: Nonfiction or magazine section
Favorite book from childhood: Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Book that made you laugh or cry: Where The Red Fern Grows
Guilty pleasure: As a student of the Mexican-American Border for the last 25 years, I am watching the Netflix series Narcos.
Favorite place to read: You name it… I'll read anywhere.
E-reader or paper: I prefer paper, but as long as I can access reading material, my phone will serve the purpose in a pinch.
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