Spanish Students from Central Academy High School

Students from the Spanish AP class at Central Academy in Des Moines, IA used digital surrogates (of xMMs.Doc2) to create their own group projects around the 1699 Spanish will featured in the 2016 paleography workshop.  They were able to capitalize on individual strengths and interests when designing their projects, as well as when they were working on the completion of the projects.

Congratulations to the following students who submitted work: Alexandra Milan, Anaih Heredia, Anna Owenson, Danny Drane, Cassidy, Elena Hicks, Michelle Rus, Rebecca Rodrigues, Henry Gunderson, Jack Romp, Jazzaray James, Sylvia Visser, Claire Peterson, Katie Mason, Addison Williamson, Will Gunderson, and Zoe Swinton.  Browse through excerpts from their reflections and photos of some of their final projects.


Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 8.06.56 AMElena Hicks – For our project, we created a “key” of the Spanish alphabet based on the will. The document was very challenging to read because it has been written in calligraphy, the pages are worn, and is 16th-century Spanish (which is very different from modern Spanish.) It was easier to find lowercase letters because they were obviously used more often and capitalization was not yet standardized. There were also variations of the same letter simply because it was handwritten, which made it harder to differentiate between letters. We were surprised to find a complete absence of the letter “K” in the hundreds of pages of the will. We discovered that this is because the letter “K” was not yet a part of the Spanish alphabet. Even today, the few Spanish words that include “K” are borrowed from other languages. The letters “Q”, “W”, and “X” were used sparingly. Overall, we found it very interesting to compare the Spanish in this document to the modern Spanish we have been studying throughout high school. While the language has evolved greatly in the last 300 years, many aspects have stayed the same. For example, most words, including numbers, are spelled the same.

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 8.06.45 AMMichelle Rus –  I became interested in the unique handwriting and calligraphy presented in this document and am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with it. I found paleography interesting, but the thing about it is that it is very time consuming, so I do not think I would like to do this again with other documents. I learned about the old Spanish alphabet and how it has developed over time and was able to compare the changes between 1699 and today. I liked being able to try to find connections between 1699 Spanish alphabet and today’s alphabet. I have never worked this much in depth with a Spanish primary source, and my preconceptions changed as I became more acquainted with the document. Working with the digital copy made me want to see the original, although the digital copy sufficed for the completion of my chosen project. I personally took away the value of seeing the intense work that paleographers do.  Educationally I saw the historical value of having the opportunity to work with the will. My first thoughts about the project were that it would be difficult to get though since it was 192 pages, but breaking down the work over time helped ease my thoughts as I became more familiar with the document. Working with an original document in Spanish made me feel a bit more excited about Spanish class and the Spanish language in general.


Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 10.49.11 AMWill Gunderson – My project was a joint project with Katie Mason and Claire Peterson. We were assigned to take words that we had not seen before or words that had changed over time and create a glossary for the 1699 Spanish will, providing the modern day Spanish definition. The goal was to be able to present our findings of about 40 words in an artistic format to reflect the time that the will was written.

Working with this project made me more motivated since I could see an actual application for our project with the University of Iowa and a clear demonstration of practicality. I really liked seeing something that was written for a purpose other than to teach Spanish and I liked the process of translating a foreign writing style into modern Spanish; and was definitely more involved and committed to this project than to any other we have done this year. I enjoyed the style of calligraphy and the importance of the real-life document. I learned a lot more about the writing style and the culture, like how accents looked like dashes and “r” looked like “x”.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 10.49.30 AMKatie Mason – My group chose words in the first six pages of the will that either were written so elegantly that they could not be read, or words that are written differently today, and we made a glossary with definitions of those words or with the modern spelling. Future readers can use it to read the document more swiftly without researching every word they stumble over.  Before I worked with this document, I thought I hated old, primary sources, but now they are less daunting because this source was the hardest I have ever used. I learned that I have a lot more patience than I thought. I was excited about Spanish because this document was something new and the project had an applicable outcome.

The art of the writing is what I liked most about this project. Working with this original document was challenging because the original penmanship is so beautifully artistic that it is hard to decipher. But I really liked the linguistic aspect of the project and document rather than the content, so this project interested me more than others have. I learned how the penmanship is read, which I would not have been able to learn if it had been translated or a typed copy.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 10.49.49 AMClaire Peterson – This project was very rewarding for me because it required me to look at the Spanish language in a new way. Up until now I had read through difficult texts finding the words I knew and then summarizing from there, but for this project I was asked to do the opposite: I looked for the words that I did not know and from there had to find the overall meaning. This new approach gave me a further appreciation of the language.

Translating from Spanish to English is enough of a chore for me, so translating from an old version of Spanish to the Spanish I have been learning for the past eight years was much more daunting. To combat this, my group divided up the work, each taking two pages from the will to search for unknown vocabulary. Some notable things that I found were the transition of letters, such as the letter V being nonexistent and in its place, the letter B. Also notable was that the combination of separate words in today’s language formed conjoined phrases in the old language so to “decode” you had to separate out some words to find the familiar ones.

Through this project I found a sincere interest in what I was doing. I enjoyed the research and puzzle solving and I think it made me use my Spanish skills in a fresh way. I was also impressed with how much background knowledge I possessed about the language and with identifying familiar Spanish words. In regular Spanish classes we mostly focus on a specific theme or unit but for this I was able to test my cumulative growth and language acquisition by applying it to the project.


Anaih Heredia –  Originally my group had planned to just transcribe the document but other groups had begun to transcribe, so we thought a translation would suffice. By using the original document I learned that the way words are spelled can change from sentence to sentence.  For example, Inquisition was spelled with a Y and then an I in the same line. Last names like Valdez could be spelled Baldez, Valdes or Baldes. I think feeling like a historian while transcribing and translating was my favorite part.  I loved finally figuring out what a word said. My least favorite part was trying to figure out the difference between the letters and reading the handwriting. My preconception about primary documents being impossible to understand disappeared after working with this one from 1699. Working with this document did not really make me excited about Spanish but it was a cool opportunity.


Zoe Swinton – I chose a creative writing task for my project in order to incorporate my interests into my Spanish abilities—to learn to use Spanish in passions I already have. The document was even harder to work with than I originally thought it would be because of the different spellings and handwritten text. I was able to understand pieces of it, however, and incorporated those small pieces of information in my creative writing piece.

I do not think I could continue to work with old documents in other languages—it just seems too tedious to me. The digital format was even more difficult to work with as the zoom was not perfect and it was hard to be able to read it in a normal fashion. I learned however that the biggest rewards come from hard work. While I put this off for a while and had a pretty easy project to do, seeing the pride on the other students’ faces as they finished their projects, knowing they had just read a centuries-old text in a different language, was enjoyable to see.

Muñoz Carillo, un obituario por su hija

Cuando fue una niña, mi padre no fue presente in mi vida. Señor Carillo, mi padre, fue muy ocupado con su negocio y nunca tuvo tiempo para mí. Estuvo bien, sin embargo, porque me había hecho otros amigos.

Cuando yo era más viejo, mi papa llegó a casa más a menudo. Nos tomamos el desayuno cada mañana, mientras que mi hermano menor jugaba al fútbol en el patio. Una vez, mi hermano rompió una estatua en el jardín con su pelota y mi papá se rió y dijo, “tu madre odiaba esa cosa fea.” Mi papá era muy bueno en la risa.

Mi padre era una persona muy amable. Él siempre dijo hola a todos y les preguntó cómo era su día. Se quedó a escuchar la respuesta. En una ocasión, la mujer dijo que ella estaba teniendo un mal día, pero mi padre había ayudado a hacer su feliz porque era un desconocido, sino que le importaba cómo se encontraba. Papá era bueno en ese tipo de cosas.

Él tenía mucho talento para la música. Papá tocaba la guitarra y mi hermano y yo cantaba para dormir casi todas las noches cuando éramos niños. Creo que era su música que hizo caer a mi madre en el amor con él. Él me decía que mi papá y mi mamá se conocieron cuando él estaba jugando música cerca una fuente y ella lo escuchó.

Se puso de pie y escuchó aun cuando sus amigos querían salir. Comenzaron a llevársela, por lo que escribieron su nombre en un trozo de papel y lo puso en el suelo cerca de él y se fue con sus amigos. Cuando vio el papel que él sabía que tenía que ser la chica bonita que escuchó y se fue en una búsqueda para encontrarla. Le llevó semanas. Mi mamá pensó que no recordaba ella. Mi madre no lo había olvidado, pero dudaba de que él le iba a llegar. Pero una noche, seis semanas más tarde, llegó a su puerta con una flor y un trozo de papel con su nombre en ella y se la dio.

Yo amaba a mi papá mucho y estoy tan triste que murió. Papá era una persona increíble que amaba a todos mucho y su amor no será olvidado por el mundo.


Jazzaray James – I was extremely excited to hear that we would be working with a Spanish will from 1699. It seemed fascinating that we were going to be looking at this relic from hundreds of years ago. The cursive writing was at times hard to decipher, but also a fun challenge. I would love the chance to work with something similar. The only thing that I would have liked to change about this project would have been the digital-only interaction. The idea of working with the actual document is immensely appealing, mainly because it – like a person – is able to step back in time. You can see the pressure of the marks and smell the decay of the page… or at least get a good observance. I am not entirely certain if that is what it would be like, but it is what I imagine. The process of looking over a will written in a different language created a desire to look at other writings of the Spanish language over different time periods. Overall, I enjoyed the experience immensely.


Jack Romp – Proyecto: Testamento de 1699 

The project we worked on was aimed at describing the historical context of Don Francisco’s life and the time surrounding the writing of his will. My first thoughts when presented with this project were how I was going to have a difficult time working out what the document meant, as I was not entirely confident in my abilities to translate the will effectively. However, I was very excited when I was able to research the historical context surrounding the document, since a historical research project seemed much more achievable and enjoyable than translating a large chunk of 17th century Spanish. After completing the project however, I am definitely more interested in attempting to translate the document because I think I could get a much better understanding of the life of Don Francisco if I were able to see the information from the will. This project has made me more excited to learn about Spanish, so I am better equipped to gain information directly from primary sources later in my school career, in Spanish or history classes.

While I did not work with the document as much as other groups, I did find it very interesting. The handwriting and words used were different than anything I have studied in school before. The thing I enjoyed most about being able to work with the document was open ended nature of the project that allowed for my group to examine the historical context surrounding the will but maintain a strong connection to the document.  I have a new understanding for the difficulty that goes into examining centuries old documents.