Official Blog of the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

LACIS Holofote: “A Portugal” with Israel Pechstein

In this installment of LACIS Holofote, we depart, blogospherically speaking, for “o jardim à beira-mar plantado” with Israel Pechstein! For those for whom the allusion to Tomás Ribeiro’s (1831-1901) poem “A Portugal” is unfamiliar, as the title suggests, Israel is off to Portugal, specifically the capital Lisboa (Lisbon), to attend a professional development course. LACIS, who sponsored a portion of Israel’s travel expenses, sat down with the budding lusitanist (meaning scholar of Portugal) to catch up with him since his recent graduation and to learn a little more about the summer program in which he will be participating.

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Israel graduated in December 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Portuguese and Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies, as well as a certificate in European Studies. His certificate is administered by the Center for European Studies, where Israel has been employed as a student assistant. During his third year of undergrad, Israel studied abroad in Coimbra, Portugal for two semesters through UW International Academic Programs. Check out IAP’s promotional video for the Coimbra program featuring none other than Israel:

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Prior to his graduation, Israel decided to continue his intensive study of the Portuguese language by applying to the UW-Madison Department of Spanish and Portuguese’s M.A. program. Upon his acceptance, the department nominated Israel for the prestigious Chancellor’s Fellowship, which he was subsequently awarded given his demonstrated commitment to academic excellence. With a successful first semester of graduate school under his belt, Israel will assume the duties of a T.A. in the fall and will be assigned a section of Portuguese, most likely 101, he says. And what better way is there to prepare for the responsibility of imparting the fundamentals of Portuguese to his students than to go to its source for professional development?

"Portugal was born here"
“Portugal was born here”

Israel has the opportunity to participate in a two-week “Summer Course for Portuguese Teachers in the U.S.A” in Lisbon, sponsored by the Fundação Luso-Americana, Fulbright Portugal, and the Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa. The program will consist of pedagogical lessons in the morning—with titles such as “Textual Genres and Writing Instruction,” “National Varieties of the Portuguese Language,” “Acquisition in Heritage Speakers,” and “Contemporary Portuguese Literature”—and cultural activities in the afternoon. These activities will include a panoramic bus tour, a visit to the Museu do Azulejo (Tile Museum), and an excursion to the city of Évora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a history spanning over two millennia!

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However, Israel expressed the most interest and excitement by far about the prospect of seeing installations of a true celebrity of the international art circuit, Joana Vasconcelos, during one of the scheduled afternoon cultural activities. Together with his peers, Israel studied her artwork in the spring of 2013 in the course “Portuguese Visual Culture: 1880-Present,” taught by Portuguese professor and campus-expert on all things Portugal Ellen Sapega. Vasconcelos’ tendency to decontextualize an everyday object and to transform this component part into a larger work has proved both polemical and wildly successful, perhaps best evidenced by the artist’s most famous piece “A Noiva” (The Bride), a cascading chandelier fashioned using over 20,000 tampons.

© Joana Vasconcelos
© Joana Vasconcelos

In just its second year, this program is no stranger to receiving participants who hail from UW-Madison. Last year, in the program’s genesis, UW-Madison sent representatives Jackie Lopes and Marcos Colón, PhD candidates in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, to Lisbon. This year, in addition to Israel, Lopes is again participating, this time in the Açores (Azores), a remote Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean famous for whale watching (before, hunting) and its geographically strategic location.

LACIS wishes Israel muita sorte in Portugal (as if he needed it) and thanks him profusely for taking the time out to meet over the summer! Aproveita a tua viagem e aprende bastante!