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Culture

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Spaniards/

The culture of the Spanish community is affected by the social and geographic origins of the immigrants. With regard to social characteristics, there is a big difference between those who have had higher levels of education, many of whom happen to be medical doctors, and the bulk of the community, who have much less formal education. We have already noted the different ways in which each group participates in community life and in community cultural activities, those with a lesser education being much more involved. This difference is determined, above all, by their lesser integration into Canadian society. Differing geographic origins within Spain powerfully condition the cultural activities of the Spanish community, which vary greatly in a number of respects, such as folklore, food, and even mother tongue.

Spanish folklore is very rich and reflects the agrarian origins, both recent and distant, of the various peoples of Spain as well as the diverse and complex contributions of the numerous civilizations that have passed through the Iberian Peninsula. Without a doubt, however, the best-known of Spain’s varied folklore, and the one that is frequently mistaken for being all of Spanish folklore, is flamenco, which comes from Andalusia. The rich and varied flamenco tradition combines a multitude of styles of dance and song: fandangos, sevillanas, seguidillas, tarantas, and so on, which bring together elements of Arab and Gypsy cultures and mixes them with the harsh experience of Andalusian labourers in the fields of the great estates and in the mines.

The dances of Galicia, known as mu ñeiras, and the use of the bagpipe (gaita) both have Celtic origins. (Some writers believe that the Gallegos were originally Celts.) Galicia has also been characterized by an intense division of landholdings and the isolation of its interior in contrast to the Atlantic coastal zone. These contrasts have given rise to a rich oral tradition that mixes the magical with the mundane: belief in witches is still strong in some parts of Galicia. In Catalonia, the dance known as the sardana, which originated in the medieval period, has become a symbol of Catalan cultural nationalism. The Basques too have brought to Canada dances of very remote – possibly Iberian – origin, with the accompaniment of wind instruments, especially the traditional txistu.

Curiously, the body of folklore that is most widespread in Spain is the least known outside the country. This is the jota, the traditional dance of village and community festivals, which can be found in variants from Castile, Aragón, Extremadura, Murcia, and Navarre. The lyrics of the songs combine advice for daily life, comments on relations between the sexes, and criticisms of customs which local morality judges negatively, all flavoured with irony and humour.

On days that usually coincide with regional festivals or with saints’ days, the immigrants’ organizations have celebrations at which many of the styles of songs and dances mentioned above, and especially flamenco and the sardana, have a prominent place. In some cases these celebrations are also intended to attract new members to the Spanish community. In Montreal, an organization called Alegría de España (Joy of Spain) was created in 1970 to offer courses in Spanish dance; every year it puts on a show. There are about fifty members, most of whom are the children of the immigrants, although some of the immigrants themselves also take part. Montreal also has an establishment called “La Chacone,” which puts on shows of flamenco and classical Spanish dance, directed by a Québécoise, two evenings per week. In Toronto, the Paula Moreno Spanish Dance Company has been very successful and was the subject of a CBC television documentary.

Another great wealth of popular culture is food. Most of the necessary ingredients are readily available in Canada because of the presence of large communities of Italians, Portuguese, and Latin Americans, who also use them. More specifically Spanish items can be found in Toronto at the Sol de España and in Montreal at the Librería Española. Spanish restaurants also reflect the regional diversity of Spain, and restaurants that provide most of the regional varieties of Spanish cooking, as well as the popular snack foods called tapas, can be found in Toronto and Montreal.

Theatre groups have a special prominence. In 1981 the Alianza Cultural Hispano-Canadiense put on La Revoltosa, one of the most famous examples of the popular musical theatre form called the zarzuela, which can best be described as a cross between European operetta and North American musical theatre. The following year, this group won a number of awards from the Ontario Multicultural Theatre Association for its production of Federico García Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba. The Alianza has also organized concerts by pianists, guitarists, and orchestras, art exhibitions as well as concerts by Spanish-Canadian and Spanish artists. In this it has had assistance from the Spanish embassy and the departments of Spanish of some of the province’s universities.

In Montreal, the Valle Inclán theatre group, named for one of Spain’s most famous early–twentieth-century writers, has carried on activities of a high artistic calibre. The late Spanish-born sculptor Jordi Bonet is very well known in the province of Quebec and one of his pieces stands at the entrance to Montreal’s Museum of Modern Art. There have also been a number of exhibitions of Spanish paintings in major Canadian cities. Since 1980, painter Angel Gómez-Miguelánez, who was born in Segovia, has lived and worked in Fredericton, New Brunswick. An exhibition of his work was shown in Toronto in 1972, before he came to Canada, and he has also had a number of exhibitions throughout New Brunswick. Although not an artist in the usual sense of the word, graphic designer Francisco Belsué , who came to Canada from Zaragoza in 1968, has made a major contribution to Canadian popular culture. It was Belsué who designed the logo for the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team.

There are a number of small magazines and weeklies with limited circulation, many of which are basically newsletters of immigrant associations. They include Hispano (Toronto), published by the Club Hispano, and La Flama (The Flame; Toronto), published by the Catalan association, Casal dels Països Catalans. The first Spanish periodical was the weekly Correo Hispano-americano (Hispanic-American Post; Toronto, 1969– ). El Popular (Of the People; Toronto, 1970– ), appears twice weekly, and the magazine Mundo Ilustrado (Illustrated World; Toronto 1975– ) every second month. There was also the Quincenario Hispaño (Spanish Quincentenary; Vancouver, 1968–77) and the Correo espanol de Québec (Montreal, 1980). Spanish Canadians also have the magazine Dialogo (Dialogue; Montreal, 1980– ), which is a continuation of the defunct Tarsis (Montreal, 1975–80) and Correo espanol. Catalans produce a quarterly magazine entitled Anxaneta (Montreal).

The main sources for news of Spain are the weekly international editions of newspapers such as ABC and El País from Madrid and the world service of Radio Exterior de España, which has programs directed to Spaniards abroad.

There are a number of Spanish writers in Canada but the most of their work is written in Spanish, rather than in French or English, and published in Spain. A large number work in universities, usually in Spanish departments, and many remain connected to literary and academic circles in Spain.

The most significant is probably Manuel Betanzos Santos, who came to Canada in 1959 at the age of twenty-six. He taught Spanish, first at Lower Canada College and then at the Université de Québec in Montreal. In addition to his own poetry, most of which has been published in Spain, Betanzos Santos was the editor of an occasional literary review, Boreal: Poesía Española en Canadá (Montreal, 1965–76), which became Boreal Internacional(Montreal, 1976– ). The review published the works of Spanish and other Hispanic poets living in Canada, as well as poetry from across the Spanish-speaking world, and Spanish translations of Canadian poetry written in French and English. Two other significant figures are the poet and translator José María Valverde, who lived in exile in Canada, teaching at Trent and McMaster universities between 1968 and 1977, and Jesú López Pacheco, a novelist and poet who teaches at the University of Western Ontario.

The Alianza Cultural Hispano-Canadiense has also contributed to the development of writing by Spaniards and Hispanics in Canada. In 1981–82 it sponsored a literary competition that led to the publication of Literatura Hispano-Canadiense (1984), a collection of stories, poetry, and plays edited by Diego Marín, a professor and in the Department of Spanish at the University of Toronto.

A small number of Spanish authors do write in French or English. Jacques Folch-Ribas has produced five novels in French, some published in Montreal, the others in Paris. His novel Une Aurore Boreale (1974) won the Prix France-Canada and was translated in English as Northlight, Twilight (1976). Jerónimo Pablo González Martín, a professor of Spanish at Trent university, has published collections of poetry and works of literary criticism in Spain, but he also writes in English under the pseudonym Blair McGregor.