With her legendary energy and her usual bright attitude, Edith Bergansius talks to Diplomat Magazine about the 100thAnniversary of the Hispanic Association of the Hague, as well as about her life-long involvement in the Spanish language.
Ms. Bergansius’ outstanding commitment towards Spanish started when she was 18 years old. At the time, she was living with an Anglo-Dutch family in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for education purposes. During an excursion, the tour-guide recommended her to visit Spain: “back in Europe, you should visit Madrid, it is an extraordinary city”. This suggestion was enough for Edith, who, after having spent five months in Brazil, decided to get in touch with a Dutch-diplomat family in Madrid, where she worked as a tutor for their kids. At the same time, she started learning Spanish in an academy downtown Madrid.
After a few trips to Vienna to improve her German, Ms. Bergansius immersed herself in the Spanish world, travelling to Ecuador and Peru, where she worked as an English teacher. After coming back to The Hague, she then started working at the Embassy of Uruguay, before taking a post at Noordeinde Palace, where he collaborated for the preparation of the King of Spain’s visit to Queen Juliana.
The investiture of Queen Beatrix – Ms. Bergansius says – “was one of the greatest souvenirs of that time”.
Following this post, she became Secretary of the Ambassador of Spain in The Hague, and she started her membership at the Hispanic Association.
Besides following courses of Spanish Studies at Leiden University and the British Open University to get a BA, Ms. Bergansius also studied to become translator and interpreter, as well as many courses in Spanish and Latin American culture and literature.
Then, the call from the Hispanic Association came. “My predecessor at the Asociación Hispánica, professor and historian Chris Nigten, approached me in 2004, when he was looking for a person to replace him”, Ms Bergansius recalls. “In 2005, I followed the necessary training in Utrecht, with Carlos Fuentes as a key speaker, and I ended up as President of the Association in February 2006.”
“Of course, the position – especially at the beginning – was a big responsibility. But along the way, I got used to it. My model was my father, a lawyer who during his life held endless honorary positions, such as being president of the Artillery Association of The Hague for 17 years and then honorary president until his death.”
Edith Bergansius is a major point of reference for the Spanish language and culture community in The Hague, and she is also a key partner to embassies of Spanish-speaking countries, thanks to her engagement in promoting the Spanish language and the culture by organizing countless cultural events attended by hundreds of guests.
Even in a short overview, we can remember many events organized by Ms. Bergansius, dealing with a wide range of topic: from the poems of Gabriela Mistral at her 130th anniversary, to Ida Vitale and Pablo Neruda, to the histories of Horacio Quiroga, the works of the Uruguayan painter Luis Alberto Solari during his centenary, the 500 years of La Habana, conferences from prestigious academic institutions like the Complutense University about the 80 Years War in Spain; but also, a lecture of Ernesto Sabato, a screening of the Guatemalan film “Donde nace el sol” (“Where the sun rises”), a conference about the Cuban National hero Jose Marti during his 163rd anniversary, a discussion by a journalist from the Spanish newspaper El Pais, as well as visits to museums, reading groups and more. And, in addition to this, one cannot forget Ms. Bergansius’ contribution to the Catholic community, including her activity at the Nunciature and her participation to the choral every Sunday.
“Every year I go back to Madrid to visit my friend from the Madrid academy in 1969” – Ms. Bergansius told us. Over the years, Edith Bergansius received recognitions and honours from many embassies. One of the most important was the Cruz de Oficial Isabel la Católica, which she received from Spain in 2013, owing to her support in spreading the language and culture of Spanish-speaking countries. “When I became president of the association, together with the director of Cervantes, Isabel Claro Lorda Vidal, we kick-started Spanish courses, which still exist today” – she recalls.
“The numerous members of the Hispanic Association of The Hague, as well as numbers of native Spanish speakers, attend every event and activity, benefiting from the knowledge and the spirit of fraternity that characterize such events. Thanks to the board of director for their support for almost 13 years in organizing this. Thanks to Montse Barbera, our Secretary, Xander the treasurer, Peggy the webmaster, thanks to Prof Inzaurralde, thanks to all” – Ms. Bergansius concluded.
Diplomat Magazine congratulates the Hispanic Association for its 100th anniversary and wishes Edith Bergansius many years of success.
Photography by Naldo Peverelli for Diplomat Magazine.