A three-day conference on environmental issues in the Hispanic world was organised by Dr Brígida Pastor (Swansea University and Ministerio de Universidades/UNED, Spain) and Dr Lloyd Davies (Swansea University) with the support of the UCML, the Instituto Cervantes, and the Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London. Originally planned as a face-to-face conference for July 2020, the event was postponed and moved online owing to the pandemic.
The Conference brought together a wide range of international scholars working on environmental issues from a variety of perspectives. The first panel, ‘Local Government Perspectives’, struck a distinctive note: presented by members of the Swansea Council, it looked at the Council’s Climate Change Action Plan and the positive impact of cross-sector partnerships and community networks.
The topics covered subsequently ranged from the highly specialized – the materials used to make musical instruments and sailing ships in south-eastern Mexico and the interaction between text and textile within the Chilean arpillera tradition – to the relatively familiar territory of history and culture, enlivened by the diversity of the themes treated: Hispanic poets (of all periods), the backdrop to the ecocrisis and Spain’s first environmental strike (involving the British company, Rio Tinto). The Jesuits featured prominently, in relation, for example to their cartography and chronicles. The ‘Visual Cultures’ panel looked at documentary film and video relating to the Ecuadorian Amazon, Mexico and Chile; ‘Animals/Birds/Insects’ covered bullfighting, the role of dogs in culture, birds in poetry, and bees in Iberian mythology. Related topics were considered subsequently – from a historical perspective – in the ‘Flora and Fauna’ panel.
Other key themes included the indigenous world with the focus on such issues as the recovery of indigenous languages and the cartonera movement, the Indigenous Literary Renaissance and the indigenous Mexican aspects of Leonora Carrington’s art. Literature featured prominently as reflected in panels that focused on Ecoliterature and Eco-Criticism while Eco-Feminism/Transgender, Ecopoetry, Children’s Literature and Latinx writing formed further important strands. Individual writers and artists treated included:
Leopoldo Alas (Spain); Gabriela Cabezón Cámara (Argentina); Leonora Carrington (Mexico); Edwige Danticat (Haiti); Guiseppe Domínguez (Spain); Rita Indiana (Dominican Republic); Rodrigo Lara (Chile); José Antonio Mazzotti (Peru); Remedios Varo (Catalonia/Mexico).
While several geographical regions featured prominently such as Galicia, the Canary Islands and Paraguay, particular attention – unsurprisingly – was given to Amazonia.
The keynote presentations were as follows:
Luis I. (Iñaki) Prádanos (Miami University, USA), ‘Environmental Spanish Cultural Studies in the Age of Extinction, Massive Inequality, and Energy Decline’
Patricia Vieira (Georgetown University, USA and University of Coimbra, Portugal), ‘Encountering the Non-Human World Anew: Lessons from the Amazon’
Lesley Wylie (University of Leicester), ‘Plants, People and the Ecological Imagination in Latin America’
The final discussion reviewed the main strands covered during the three days with particular reference to the concepts and theories that had informed many of the presentations such as interspecies kinship and disanthropocentrism, posthuman ecologies and the decolonization of interdisciplinary environmental studies.
Speakers responded favourably to publication options with a final decision on a special journal or monographic issue to be taken in late September.
It was agreed that we would maintain contact as a special interest group with a view to future cooperation relating, for example, to the exchange of news and the organization of events.
The conference was notable for PGR participation (mainly UK). The organizers wish to record their special thanks to UCML for their generous support in this regard.