By Quinlyn Manfull
Two weekends ago, the Spanish co-captains of the Willamette University Debate Union, senior Kricia Ruano Espinoza and sophomore Emilia Cubelos, took off to Ithaca, New York to compete in the Spanish Division of the 2018 Cornell IV. This was the first time debate has traveled a team to compete in Spanish. At the competition, Ruano Espinoza and Cubelos became Second Top Speaker and Grand Champions.
This weekend the Spanish co-captains, along with other members of the team and members of the Willamette community, competed in only the second year of the Spanish Division at the Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Debates. The Spanish Debate program at Willamette, like other Spanish Debate programs across the country, is still in its early phases. This is the first year WU Debate has had Spanish Captains, and the first year teams have been traveled to compete in Spanish.
Spanish debate programs are not only new at Willamette, but are new and budding all across the United States. Debating in languages other than English is also becoming popularized across the globe. Worlds University Debate Championships 2018 in Mexico was the first time the tournament has been held in a Latin American country, and this was the first year they held a public debate tournament in Spanish — an event normally held in English.
As Spanish Divisions grow slowly across the country, debate calls on Spanish speakers who are not a part of the debate program to help fill rooms and create the best competition. These programs are spaces for both native speakers and foreign language speakers to compete in Spanish.
“Debating in your native language is already really hard, then you add a language barrier,” said sophomore Natalie Lyell. “You have to work twice as hard to explain your analysis in a language you don’t normally speak. It helps with debate in general.”
British Parliamentary Debate (BP) was created in the 1800’s by Universities in Europe such as Cambridge and Oxford. The spaces created by BP Debate were for British white men. Women were not allowed to debate until often the mid-1980s in these Universities.
“One of the most important parts of having a Spanish program in University Debate teams is helping decolonize the educational space of debate — allowing a space for native Spanish speakers to debate in a format created for wealthy white men is a revolutionary act against the hegemonic academic space that is still being perpetuated through activities such as debate,”Ruano Espinoza said.
At the Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Debates this past weekend, there were three Willamette teams in the final round. Sophomore speakers Koby Wood and Phillip Amur won the tournament in the Spanish division.
These programs are difficult to build, but are immensely important to many members of the Willamette University Debate Union. At Cornell University recently, members of their community were pulled in to ensure a competitive field just as Willamette community members were pulled in this weekend. Attempting to make the space of debate more inclusive is a communal effort that Cubelos and Ruano Espinoza have been instrumental in creating on our campus and across the country.