Spanish Language Debate Society Competes in Peru

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While other students conducted research on campus or completed internships, five members of the Spanish Language Debate Society jetted to Lima, Peru, July 15–23, to compete in the World Universities Debating Championship in Spanish. Accompanied by Vice President and Dean of the College Paul McLoughlin and Director of Student Accounts Jason Shumaker, the group traveled 3,700 miles south to face off with other schools in British Parliamentary-style debates about topics like Latin American economics. 

Camila Napuri ’21 and Diana Flores ’20 placed second in the English as a Second Language category. A question in one round, about quantitative expansion, was challenging for the women, who are double majoring in biology/Spanish and history/peace and conflict studies, but Napuri says Colgate’s liberal arts curriculum, especially her core courses, helped the pair discuss topics on which they weren’t well-versed. For example, themes and terminology taught in Challenges of Modernity helped her form and articulate her arguments.

Arturo Longoria ’21, who critiqued arguments as latigo, or whip, during the competition, agrees. “I just started thinking about classes I took from the core: Challenges of Modernity, Legacies of the Ancient World, statistics, and everything came together,” he said.

Neither Napuri nor Longoria had debate experience before joining the society, organized six years ago as a way for students to practice Spanish while honing critical thinking skills through debate. But through reading Latin American and Spanish newspapers and engaging in practice debates with veteran members, they rose in the ranks, becoming captains for the championship.

The group isn’t all about debate. On its face, the society helps students bring awareness to issues in Latin America and Spain. But its deeper intention is to keep Spanish culture alive on the Hill. 

Both Longoria and Napuri grew up in Spanish-speaking homes, so when they arrived on a predominantly English-speaking campus, they were homesick for that part of their cultural identity. They found out about the society through OUS, and since joining, they’ve formed a close-knit community with other Spanish speakers. While many members also grew up speaking Spanish, several joined to practice for their Spanish courses. 

“It’s about Spanish, but it’s also about coming together and celebrating our Latin American culture,” Napuri said.