NYU Madrid, established in 1958, is the oldest of the university’s global programs. The program’s site -- a newly renovated building in the vibrant center of the city -- is one of the newest of the university’s global facilities. This combination of oldest and newest is fitting; an exciting and cosmopolitan city located at the very center of the Iberian Peninsula, the capital of Spain is an ideal place to experience and explore the history -- as well as the challenges and the promise -- of today’s ever more globalized world.
For centuries the Iberian Peninsula has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures from Africa, Western Europe, the broad Mediterranean world, and, after 1492, the Americas. A dizzyingly diverse set of cultures have converged, commingled, and sometimes clashed on this relatively small piece of real estate -- it’s easy to forget that the entire Iberian Peninsula is roughly the size of Texas. Spain and Portugal were, of course, the protagonists of one of the main early chapters in the history of globalization; the highlights and dark shadows of that process and its ambivalent legacy are everywhere in sight. And the legacy of Spain’s convulsive post-imperial history is equally ubiquitous in Spain’s politics, economies and diverse cultures, where the past is quite present, and the old, sometimes dressed up like new.
Spain, in sum, is a fascinating, living laboratory for anyone interested in many of today’s most pressing issues, including the struggles and synergies between the old and the new, tradition and modernity, the local and the global. The history, current state, and future of cultural and religious diversity; the legacies of imperialism and colonialism; issues of fascism and antifascism, of dictatorship and democratic transitions; these are just some of the burning issues that you will encounter in Madrid not only in our classrooms, but also in your everyday life. Thanks, in large part, to the country’s remarkably diverse history and cultures, you will be hard put to find another place on the globe with richer and more varied culinary, musical, literary and artistic traditions; in Spain, you will engage history with your mind and with all of your senses.
My life was transformed by the opportunity to study in Spain many years ago; I invite you to avail yourself of this chance to dive into the life, language and legacies of this extraordinary corner of the globe. I am confident that if you truly immerse yourself, you too will be intellectually and personally transformed by your time here, and that you’ll spend a lot of time afterwards figuring out how to come back.
James D. Fernández, Ph.D.
Director, NYU Madrid
Professor of Spanish Literature, New York University