Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
My research started in Madrid where I interviewed Dr. José Pamies, who is a professor of flamencology at the University of Alcala. His flamencology class is currently the only university-level course in Spain, where students can study the origins and the evolution of the flamenco music and dance. Professor Pamies had previously spent 12 years doing research on the flamenco culture. I am really grateful for his decision to share his research with me, composed of over 50 documentaries and short movies and more than 2000 flamenco songs. Currently, I am collaborating with Mr. Eric Williams-Bergen, an ODY librarian, and Mr. Grant Currie , the Manager of Educational technologies, to make these materials available to all students and professors on campus. This way, the future Spanish or Music majors or minors, or anyone interested in the flamenco art will have an access to a large database of music and information about the flamenco and the Spanish gypsies.
In Madrid, I also interviewed the director of the Asociacion Nacional Presencia Gitana (the National Association of the Gypsy Presence). From a wonderful interview with Mr. Manuel Martín Ramírez, and other employees of the Association, I was able to gather information about all Spanish legislations toward the gypsy population dating from the seventeenth century.
The three days I spent in Madrid flew by very quickly and before I even managed to do all the work and meet up with dear friends and my Spanish host family from when I studied abroad there, it was time for next location: Jerez de la Frontera. In this southern Andalusian city I had chance to interview one of the most famous local flamenco dancers doña Juana la del Pipa. She and her nephew Antonio el Pipa, who is an experienced flamenco dancer, participated in filming the movie called the “Gypsy Caravan” (where Johnny Depp was one of the featured characters). My interview with doña Juana was one of the most valuable insights for my research because it provided me with a better understanding of what flamenco represents in an everyday life. She talked about her experience as a singer and said that the flamenco art represents a “duende”(a profound feeling of happiness or sadness) and something that gives you goose bumps and makes you live life to the fullest.
In Granada I interviewed representatives from two NGOs that lobby for gypsy rights and the promotion of their culture. I visited Albicín, which is a district in Granada known for its narrow winding streets of the Medieval Moorish past and its breathtaking view of the Alhambra. Here I had chance to visit centuries old caves where some of the first Andalusian gypsies lived. In one of the tourist caves I had a pleasure to meet and interview a flamenco singer and writer, Mr. Curro Albaicín. I was fortunate to get to listen to some of his flamenco music and learn about the history of the cave that today is a Museum, but which some decades ago was the place where Mr. Albaicín was born and raised.
I chose Barcelona as my last destination because I wanted to learn what flamenco represents in different Spanish regions. Here, I had a chance to interview Mr. Jésus Salinas, the secretary of the Association Education for Gypsies. During our interview in a café on Las Ramblas, Mr. Salinas talked about the importance of flamenco for the non-gypsy population. In Barcelona I also interviewed representative of the Roma Union who offered to publish my thesis in May or June this year. Thus, one of my priorities this semester is not only to finish writing my thesis, but also to prepare a shorter version that can be published in a Spanish journal.
My travel research grant not only allowed me to conduct valuable research for senior project but it also gave me a chance to meet people that I otherwise would not be able to meet. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I hope to expand on this research topic more in the future.