Dr. Eugenia Afinoguénova Associate Professor, Spanish
Tr avel ing Spa in, yesterday an d today Dr. Eugenia Afinoguénova is uniting past and present Spain with a new mapping tool that connects 19th-century literary descriptions to the country’s popular destinations. After analyzing more than 40 era travel books, the associate professor of Spanish’s international team has compiled data such as when and where people traveled; what places they visited; how they described these places; and how long it took to get there. Like modern-day counterpart Trip Advisor, these trendy travelogues of yore were influenced by writers’ opinions and backgrounds, even though they aimed to be authentic. As a result, the texts reaffirmed cultural biases as much as they told the adventures of the countryside, theorizes Afinoguénova. “American authors immersed in the Civil War reported on associations with governance and political struggle, while British travelers preoccupied with colonial enterprise were mostly interested in defending or refuting Catholicism or exploring the ‘Moorish’ Spain,” she notes. Another finding of the project: “Places most often described are not necessarily your standard tourism destinations,”
Afinoguénova says. “These findings give small towns an opportunity to rebrand themselves as traditional destinations.” Dr. Praveen Madiraju, associate professor of mathematics, statistics and computer science, created the prototype tool that pins related database text to mapped destinations. As a scholar, Afinoguénova envisions this as a research tool, which allows users to see how different variables affect the stories people tell about places. She has no doubt it will also tempt tourism professionals. “People decide to visit a place based on its reputation that is steeped in oral and written tradition,” she says. SARAH PAINTER KOZIOL
Check out this evolving project at spanishtravelers.com.
research in brief