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THE SPANISH Cultural Institute is less than one year old: it was founded in July 1971 with Señor José Antonio Sierra as its first director. Much of its programme is still in the formative stage but, at the same time, a great deal has been planned and some of it is now taking shape.
    The library is not due to open for another two months but already 4,000 volumes have been collected in the institute´s headquarters at 58 Northumberland Road, Dublin 4. Books on literature and the fine arts abound, naturally, but there are also works on economics, engineering and science, farming and sociology. The director intends to add a substantial number of books in English in order to reach a wider cross section of the Irish public than merely those who can read Spanish.
    Spanish is the second foreign language being taught in Irish schools, with 247 secondary schools having courses on the syllabus, and there are approximately 15,000 students at all levels. In Spain the teaching of English has recently been started in primary schools, so that now over five million children are learning English. This will provide great opportunities for Irish teachers with a knowledge of Spanish. A scheme is now in the pipeline that will give about 200 Irish teachers of Spanish a working holiday during the summer in Spain. They will confer - at holiday resorts - with their Spanish colleagues on teaching methods and the use of audio-visual aids, etc.
    There are about thirty-five cultural institutes all over the world, under the direction of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Madrid. Many of these are in South America. A legacy from the days of Spanish exploration and the conquest are the strong links between Latin America and the mother country. Spaniards enjoy dual citizenship with 12 Latin American nations.
    Señor Sierra emphasises that the institute in Dublin exists not only to bring a knowledge of Spain but also the culture of the Latin America spanish speking countries.. Already among the 360 records available for lending to members are representative artists of countries south of Caribbean, Latin-American poets and novelists will be found in the library and naturally, films showing colourful aspects of life in the Spanish-speaking tropics may tempt the Irish tourists to venture a little further than the Costa Brava.
    It would be difficult for any Dubliner not to notice the Spanish schoolchildren who visit here during the summer. As many as five thousand come here and stay with private families. As part of an exchange scheme the Institute helps to promote Irish pupils have the opportunity to stay in Spain. At present there is no scholarship system operating for Irish students to study at Spanish universities, but there is an arrangement with the Irish Government to provide grants for the exchange of two from each country to spand a year in each other´s land. These grants are not confined to students but could apply to graduates of any profession. It is hoped that this number will be increased by a mutual agreement between the two Governments who provide the necessary finance and facilities.
Broad scope
    The Dublin Instite enjoys a great deal of autonomy, which means that the director is largely responsible for his programme of activities. This is in contrast to the Goethe Institute, for example, where Dublin is part of a world-wide network of concerts, lectures and theatrical activities planned in Munich. The director of the Spanish Institute can, therefore, orient his programme to what considers to be the special needs of the Irish people.
    It is far too early to discern any trends that distinguish the policy of this Institute from the others but it is already evident that the intention is to present a programme broad, even popular, in its scope. It is not planned to appeal only to the intellectuals or to those with a knowledge of the language. Films on sport, including bullfighting, will be shown. Since the success of the movie "Man of La Mancha" the exploits of Don Quixote have become familiar to many who never heard of Cervantes. This month the Institute will devote a week to La Mancha and its most noted citizen.
    Before the Institute was founded here there was already a Dublin Spanish Society, a purely private body operating in Dublin and in other towns. Naturally the Institute assumed many of its functions. Señor Sierra plans to open branches down the country and they are already closely co-operating whith the Spanish Circle in Cork.
    The Institute, in order to implement the policy of reaching the man in the street, is contacting clubs, associations and Government institutions offering their services and asking how they may best serve the Irish community. However the limiting factor is, as always, money. The operating budget is only 16,000 pounds (out of which the rent of the premises must be paid) and there are only 350 members, mostly language students, who pay two pounds a year.
Strong links
    Yet a full programme of events is scheduled. There will be concerts, lectures, film shows, conferences and dance groups. In cooperation with the Spanish Tourist Board, the famous guitarist Ismael will play and recite his poetry in the Royal Dublin Society on the 27th and 28th of this month. Non-members are welcome.
    Dispite the fact that Spain is not in  the E.E.C., there are strong historical connections between Ireland and Spain and the director hopes that his programme will strengthen the ties between the two countries.
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Wednesday, February 14, 1973{jcomments on}

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