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Focus on Faculty: Monica Cantero-Exojo

“Studying Spanish is going to open the door to job opportunities and provide a whole set of transferable skills”

March 2023 – Drew University’s Monica Cantero-Exojo, professor and director of the Spanish language program, joined us for our Focus on Faculty series, where we highlight the many accomplishments, research, and scholarship of Drew’s incredible faculty members.

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Professor Cantero-Exojo with her service dog

At Drew, Cantero-Exojo teaches a variety of language, linguistics, and cinema courses. She created the popular Spanish Language & Culture in Barcelona shortTREC—a program she has been successfully directing for over 19 years.

We sat down with Cantero-Exojo to learn more about her research and how it informs her classroom. 

Talk to us about your research on the “Tourism Kills” graffiti movement in Barcelona and the impact of tourism on the local Spanish culture.
I have taken Drew students to Barcelona since 2004 as part of the shortTREC program. During all those years, I have seen the city and its space condense and project their social, political, economic, and cultural realities throughout time and space. This has been an interesting journey that gave birth to my project: How tourism has impacted the city over time. 

Tourism generates social conflict, a border of self-interest between the institutional agencies and the locals, which has elided possibilities of home-grown prosperity for the locals. The narrative of a homogeneous economic bonanza has created a fantasy that has irrevocably affected Barcelona’s authenticity as an urban space. In my research, the city has also codified its struggle under pintadas callejeras (written graffiti): “Tourism Kills” written all over the city during years before the pandemic. This declaration of confrontation presents the citizens of Barcelona with a simple metaphor that represents global mass-tourism as the equivalent of the beginning of the end for the local way of life. 

As a contributor to Visions of Struggle in Women’s Filmmaking in the Mediterranean, why is this an important story to tell?
I contributed to the book with a research paper on the Spanish film Take My Eyes/Te doy mis ojos, (Iciar Bollaín) released in 2003. This is the story of gender violence and it was important to tell this story because it resonated with the ongoing political debate and embodied this moment of social awareness. The film also expressed a relevant filmic narrative for an audience that was becoming an active participant in the fight against gender-based violence, and was recognizing this problem as a national reality for the first time.

What is forensic linguistics?
Forensic linguistics is the interface between language, crime, and law—where the term law includes, among other concepts, law enforcement, judicial matters, legislation, disputes, or proceedings in law. It even include disputes that only potentially involve any violation of the law or any need to seek a legal remedy.

In this context, forensic linguistics is a forensic technique aimed to obtain as much information and data (written or spoken) as possible to analyze and to reduce the number of suspects or attribute authorship (or not) to a certain person. The phrase forensic linguistics was not used until 1968 when a linguistics professor named Jan Svartvik documented its first mention in his famous analysis of the statements regarding a 1953 case. A little too late for the accused, Timothy John Evans, who was condemned to death and executed as it was proven that, in fact, he could not have committed the crime. Along with other evidence collected in the course of many investigative threads, Svartvik’s findings showed that Evans could not, as had been claimed at his trial, have dictated the statements attributed to him.

Any advice for students considering a major or minor in Spanish?
Go for it! You will be happy with your decision. Studying Spanish is going to open the door to job opportunities and provide a whole set of transferable skills—interpretation, critical and ethical thinking, written and oral communication—beneficial and profitable in a work and social environment, domestically or internationally.

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