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May 11, 2007

Heir to Spanish Throne helps HACU Conference Attendees Celebrate Hispanic Heritage
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – Returning home from the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) international conference in Spain, more than 175 participants from throughout the Americas brought with them a heightened appreciation of Hispanic cultural heritage, made possible in large part by the heir to the Spanish throne.  His Royal Highness the Prince of Asturias, 39-year-old son of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía, officially inaugurated the three-day conference on May 4. 

“Felipe, Felipe!” shouted residents of Alcalá de Henares from behind security barricades as the prince’s motorcade approached the entrance to the University of Alcalá, established in 1499 in

His Royal Highness the Prince of Asturias, heir to the Spanish throne, mingled with representatives of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) at their international conference held in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, on May 4.  San Antonio, Texas, residents Lorena Blanco (from right), Alvaro Romo and Silvia Kennison were among more than 175 participants in the three-day conference held at the University of Alcalá. 
the historic town northeast of Madrid.  After greeting dignitaries, the prince broke with protocol to shake hands with the crowd of well-wishers.  It was the prince’s first public appearance since the birth of his and Princess Letizia’s second daughter Sofía on April 29 and his second visit to Alcalá in less than a year.

Convening in the university’s ornate, centuries-old auditorium, the walls of which are inscribed with names of alumni like Francisco de Quevedo, Lope de Vega and Tirso de Molina who defined Spain’s Golden Age of Literature, the prince said, “Today I have the pleasure of returning to this place, cradle of learning and study, where the Hispanic world can look with pride upon our shared past and cultural, literary and university heritage.”

Alcalá is also the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quijote de la Mancha.  The University of Alcalá hosts the annual Premio Cervantes, the highest honor in Spanish literature, presided over by the monarch.

Directing his remarks at representatives of the 450-member Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the heir to the monarchy welcomed those attending HACU’s seventh international conference – the first held in Europe.  “We are grateful that you have chosen Spain, Madrid and Alcalá, specifically its university, to celebrate this conference, since it is certainly difficult to think of a more appropriate place to carry out such an educational, historical and cultural encounter,” said the prince. 

Referencing the theme of the conference, “Hispanic Culture: Celebrating Our Heritage,” the prince noted that “the trajectories of the city of Alcalá and its university find themselves intrinsically tied to the profound and intense relation between Spain and America.  It was in Alcalá in the 1480s that Christopher Columbus first met with Spain’s Reyes Católicos, Ferdinand and Isabella, to propose a voyage that, inadvertently, resulted in the Europeans’ first settlements in what was to them a New World.  The first university of the Americas, founded in Santo Domingo, based its charter on that of Alcalá.

“Today, in the United States and Puerto Rico alone there are approximately 2 million Hispanic college students,” said Dr. José Jaime Rivera, President of the University of the Sacred Heart in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and chair of the HACU Governing Board.  “HACU-member colleges and universities, while representing less than 10 percent of the country’s institutions of higher learning, are home to nearly two thirds of the nation’s Hispanic students.”

Founded in 1986, the mission of HACU is to: promote the development of member colleges and universities; improve access to and the quality of post-secondary educational opportunities for Hispanic students; and meet the needs of business, industry and government through the development and sharing of resources, information and expertise. 

While Hispanic students make up approximately 11 percent of the US postsecondary, they are increasingly underrepresented in study abroad programs.  Each year, of the 170,000 American students studying abroad, only 5.4 percent are Hispanic.  The University of Alcalá is one of 50 international member institutions of HACU, many of which offer study abroad opportunities.

His Royal Highness the Prince of Asturias himself studied abroad, having spent two years in the United States.  Departing from his prepared remarks, the prince joined the Rector of the University of Alcalá in extending his condolences to those affected by last month’s tragedy in Virginia Tech.

The prince concluded his remarks saying, “I am convinced that the analysis, reflections and encounters of this 7th International Conference of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities will spur new initiatives which, without a doubt, will reinforce the extraordinary role that higher education plays in unifying the great Hispanic community – a labor that can count on the support of Spain and on my personal commitment as the heir to the crown.”

The Embassy of Spain in the United States and the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science co-hosted the event.  Sodexho, the international food services and facilities management company, sponsored the welcoming dinner.

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