The Spanish Embassy Sept. 10, over tapas and tempranillo, introduced its next rich cultural events across America, highlighted by celebrations for the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon discovering Florida.
"Americans don't know the importance of Spaniards to this nation," Ambassador Ramón Gil-Casares told me. "The influence of Spain is absent in the U.S. -- It's very, very important to us to change this."
So the Embassy is launching "SPAIN arts & culture", programs in 27 U.S. cities for fall/winter 2013.
Spain is continuing its commemorations of their native son who discovered "La Florida" 500 years ago. "Ponce de Leon was the first European to set foot on the U.S. ... But if asked, Americans probably would not know," the ambassador added.
Events to enlighten Americans include:
- "TAPAS. Spanish Design for Food", an exhibit by Juli Capella, with advice from famed chef José Andrés, host of PBS-TV's cooking series "Made in Spain" and author of its companion cookbook.
Speaking of tapas and José Andrés, the Embassy event was held at one of his Jaleo tapas bars. Guests feasted on Jamón Ibérico De Bellota Fermín -- ham from black-footed black pigs fed on acorns; chicken frittatas -- served in clear plastic tennis shoes; tortilla de patatas; vegetarian paella; flan...
But back to "TAPAS" the exhibit, which will display items for the kitchen, table, and food, like:
- Plates for tapas, which means "lid" because the snacks were served as a cover on wine glasses
- Spanish drinking vessels. The "bota" wineskin Ernest Hemingway adored, but the "porrón" disgusted George Orwell because it reminded him of a bed pan.
- Chupa-Chupa lollipop, invented in Spain in 1959, and featured in New York's Museum of Modern Art design collection.
"TAPAS" will be in Miami in November-December, and in Washington in January.
- Spain is the lead country at the 30th Miami Book Fair International, with more than 20 authors in the festival Nov. 17-24.
In addition to Florida, California also owes mucho to Spain. "California's Founding Father" was Franciscan friar Junípero Serra, born 300 years ago on the island of Mallorca.
- "Junípero Serra and the Legacies for the California Missions" at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. is a "masterpiece of an exhibition," the ambassador commented.
The exhibit has some 250 items commemorating the friar's founding Spanish missions including San Juan Capistrano, San Luis Obispo, and others in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Diego.
Who knew? Well...
"Every fourth-grader in California knows the name of Junípero Serra (1713–1784), the Franciscan priest who oversaw the establishment of the first nine missions in the state," says the renowned Huntington Library, where the exhibit continues through Jan. 6.
And more people will know, thanks to the new biography "Junípero Serra: California’s Founding Father" by Steven W. Hackel (Hill and Wang of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sept. 2013).
Also little-known in America is the extraordinary Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923).
- "Sorolla and America", an exhibit at Dallas' Meadows Museum will explore for the first time the unique relationship between this fine artist and the United States.
Sorolla was Spain's most famous artist until Pablo Picasso emerged, Ambassador Gil-Casares noted. "Sorolla was such a gifted, natural artist -- he painted without effort. This exhibit is an eye-opener."
Sorolla had blockbuster U.S. exhibitions in 1909 and 1911. The Hispanic Society of America in 1911 commissioned the Valencia artist to create 14 large murals depicting Spain's provinces. The society's headquarters in New York City now displays them in "The Sorolla Room".
"Sorolla and America" is curated by Blanca Pons-Sorolla, the artist's great-granddaughter, who is the leading authority on his works.
After the (Dec. 13-Apr. 19, 2014) show closes in Dallas, it is scheduled at the San Diego Museum of Art (May 30-Aug. 26) and Madrid's Fundación MAPFRE in September.
Other events focus on music, film, photography, architecture... Musical offerings include:
- Pablo Heras-Casado makes his Metropolitan Opera debut conducting Verdi's "Rigoletto" Nov. 11-Dec. 7, one of many events commemorating the 200th anniversary of Verdi's birth. Also this season, Heras-Casado makes his debut with the New York Philharmonic and with the Philadelphia Orchestra, plus additional appearances in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
- The Rebecca Vallejo Trio performs works from its new album "Azucar Canela" -- nine compositions with influences of jazz and soul -- in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
- Washington's GALA Hispanic Theatre offers "Cabaret Barroco: Interludes of Spain's Golden Age" Sept. 12-Oct. 6, and Fuego Flamenco Festival IX with three Spanish companies during Nov. 8-17.
- Washington's Folger Shakespeare Library presents the Folger Consort performing "Map of the World: Music from 13th and 15 Century Spain" Sept. 27-29.
Other Washington events in other genres include:
- Ten Spanish films are in the DC Shorts Film Festival Sept. 19-29. Next year, Spain will be the featured country in the Washington festival, the largest short film event on the east coast.
- FOTOWEEK DC Nov. 1-10 will display many fine images from Spanish photographers, among others, at the elegant Former Residence of the Ambassadors of Spain.
Surely, this current season of "SPAIN arts & culture" will enlighten Americans about the crucial importance of Spain and Spaniards to our country, its arts and culture.
For more info: "SPAIN arts & culture" fall/winter 2013, www.spainculture.us. Embassy of Spain, 2375 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. Cultural activities are being held also in seven cities across Canada, in collaboration with the Embassy of Spain in Ottawa, www.spainculture.ca.