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Elon participates in marathon reading of 'Don Quixote'

The 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes and his novel, 'Don Quixote,' were celebrated with a weeklong event that included reading both volumes aloud.

Ricardo Mendoza, a lecturer in Spanish, was the first to read on Thursday. 

Elon students, faculty and staff marked the 400th anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes’ death by participating in a marathon reading of his book, “Don Quixote” on Thursday.

Elon was one of eight universities—seven in North Carolina and one in Spain—that took part in the five-day series. The goal was to read aloud both volumes of Quixote in 40 hours.

Forty-eight people participated in Elon’s event by reading in 10-minute intervals from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Carlton Commons. Most participants read in English but some read in Spanish, French, Italian, Catalan, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, German and Quechua, the ancient language of the Incas in Peru.

“We tried to read it in as many languages as we teach,” said Mina Garcia, the associate professor of Spanish who organized Elon’s event. “… We wanted to show on one hand how universal Cervantes and his work is, but we also wanted to show how diverse our population is and what we offer at Elon.”

The statewide celebration is part of the El Quixote Festival, which started on Sept. 29, 2015, and ends Friday, April 29. The marathon reading, organized by Rafael A. Osuba, founder and artistic director of the festival, started Monday at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and will end today, April 22. Queens University, Gardner-Webb University, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Duke University, North Carolina State University, Meredith College and Academia de Castilla in Granada, Spain also participated in the weeklong reading marathon.

Keren Rivas, assistant director of alumni communications, read in Spanish.

Kirsten Rowley, a first-year student at Elon, was one of the first people to read from chapter 15 Thursday morning. She takes a Spanish class with Garcia and wanted to take part in the event.

“I thought it was a good thing for us to participate in,” Rowley said. “(Garcia) put in so much time and effort to make sure it all went so smoothly.”

While people stood at a podium to read, illustrations from the book played on a slide show behind them. By the end of the marathon, a total of 1,200 pages will have been read aloud. And while the goal was simply to read the two volumes—one published in 1605 and the other in 1615—aloud, Garcia saw so much more happening.

"I am hoping that the Elon community experienced what it is to be a part of a world-wide event based on literature, written in a language other than English," Garcia said. "It’s a good reminder that language is more than grammar, but it’s attached to communities, cultures and history."

Many of the people who read on Thursday had never delved into the story, which follows the adventures of Alonso Quixano, who christened himself as Don Quixote, and his sidekick, Sancho Panza.

"This event seeks to make our classics contemporaries again, and to unite us under a common purpose very in line with Elon’s aspiration of becoming a global community," Garcia said.

Roselee Papandrea Taylor,
4/21/2016 7:05 PM