World traveler María Antonia García de la Torre, PhD, resident assistant professor of Spanish, had some initial shock when she moved to the Great Plains.
She began her career at Creighton in 2016, in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature. Far from her hometown of Bogotá, Colombia, Garcia de la Torre moved to Nebraska to finish her doctorate in Spanish at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2012, after earning her graduate degree in journalism from CEU San Pablo University in Madrid, Spain.
“When I knew I was moving to Nebraska, I googled the state and the first results were the image of a woman with an umbrella destroyed in the middle of a snowstorm and the video Lady Gaga made here. I didn’t know anyone here, so it was a leap of faith, but I’m glad I came,” she said. “Years later, I was offered to write a book about my adventures here, and I did. There was no way I would go through this and not write about it.”
The new faculty member said she was excited to begin her career at Creighton, citing the high academic caliber and sense of community at the University. She noted Creighton’s efforts to educate “the whole person,” academically, physically and spiritually, saying, “It is admirable how my students engage in activities to help people and to grow spiritually.”
“I feel a part of a family. I feel like I can grow as a professor and a researcher, and that comes from working at this University. The spiritual side is wonderful, and such a plus that Creighton has to offer to the students.”
Her engagement with Creighton and her students moved her to apply for a Non-Western Grant to bring Colombian Jesuit and peace advocate the Rev. Francisco de Roux, SJ, to Creighton recently. His presentations allowed Creighton students to connect with Colombia’s transition to peace after five decades of civil war. Even though Garcia de la Torre’s focus is Spanish literature, her heart is always connected to the reality of her home country.
Her classes cover everything from basic Spanish to advanced levels, and her students range from freshmen to seniors. She emphasizes the importance of analyzing Spain’s cultural diversity in her 500-level class, which focuses on 20th century Spanish literature through movies, letters, poetry, newspaper articles and music.
In addition to her teaching, García de la Torre is an opinion columnist for the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, writing twice a month and concentrating on literature, art, women’s rights, the exploitation of minorities and U.S. immigration issues.
She credits her parents, both journalists in Colombia, for influencing her life and career. “Even though my father is an economics professor and my mother was a professor in political science for decades, they have always been involved in journalism and literature. They started the first political magazine in our country in the ‘70s, Alternativa, and invited interesting collaborators such as Nobel Prize in Literature awardee Gabriel García Márquez,” said Garcia de la Torre. “Their devotion, not to recognition, awards or wealth, but to justice and truth was a great inspiration to me. In a country as unequal and violent as Colombia, where everybody is seeking profit in other people’s suffering, seeing my parents use all their potential to stand for the oppressed totally shaped my mindset into that goal.”
Her Twitter account, @caidadelatorre, has more than 35,000 followers, as she writes about the trials and tribulations happening within her home country. “I say things that most local journalists are afraid to, not because I am braver, but because I live abroad, and here I can break the censorship barrier that bans Colombian news to reach international media.”
She plans to visit Colombia this summer after almost four years. She also is writing a book on Spanish author Max Aub, about the effects of a civil war in art production and reception.
She hopes to continue projects such as the lectures by Fr. de Roux to give students a direct connection with the reconstruction of a Latin American country through reconciliation, social justice, spirituality and peace.
In her free time, García de la Torre is an avid bicyclist and is looking forward to warmer weather in the spring.