10 March 2023 HWS Debate Semifinals in the Spanish-Speaking Circuit

HWS Debaters branch out to the Spanish-language circuit and find great promise, with Nicolas Diaz-Aguilar ‘26 and Paulina Tejada ’25 proceeding to the semifinals.

HWS sent four novice debaters to Ithaca, N.Y. to compete in a Spanish-speaking debate tournament on the weekend of March 3-5. The tournament included teams from Cornell, UPenn, Colgate and CEU San Pablo University in Spain.  

The tournament was Cornell’s fifth edition of Campeonato Hispanohablante Interuniversitario de Debate y Oratoria. A Parliamentary-style debate, teams compete entirely in Spanish.

Holding trophy

Paulina Tejada ’25 and Nicolas Diaz-Aguilar ’26 hold their trophy. 

Nicolas Diaz-Aguilar ’26 and Paulina Tejada ’25 proceeded to the semifinals of the tournament, ranking as one of the top six teams. They debated the motion “EC lamenta la narrativa que "la vida es muy corta,” or “This House regrets the narrative that ‘life is too short.’” Their opposition included three Cornell teams. Tejada ranked as the fifth best speaker in the Español Lengua Extranjera (ELE) or Spanish as a Second Language category.  

“It was such an amazing experience,” Diaz-Aguilar says, “We learned some extremely useful stuff and we got something new from every round.”   

Javier Pacheco ’26 was partnered with a debater from another college and performed well, narrowly missing the break and becoming a reserve team should another be unable to compete in the semifinals. This marks Pacheco’s second impressive performance as a novice, having broken as a judge at his very first tournament in the Cornell IV. “Getting to speak in Spanish was a good mix up and allowed me to use my knowledge which I otherwise wouldn't be able to,” Pacheco says, “Breaking as a judge has made me a much better debater because I knew the technicalities on a much more foundational level.” Pacheco was the eighth best speaker in ELE, the Spanish as a Second Language category.  

“It was fulfilling in a sense I never thought I could experience,” Tejada says. She also reflects that it gave her, “the opportunity to connect to a part of myself I hadn’t fully connected with in a while.”  

Emely Martinez ’24 recently joined the team, competing in her first tournament ever. She was paired with a Cornell debater.

The teams were accompanied by Associate Professor of the Spanish and Hispanic Studies Fernando Rodríguez-Mansilla, who is excited to grow and expand the opportunities for Spanish speakers at HWS to engage in critical discourse. “In a word, they got inspired to strive more and more,” says Rodríguez-Mansilla, adding that the debaters are already searching for the next Spanish-speaking tournament.  

“Our Debate Team is made up of students from a wide array of backgrounds and identities, and is more diverse in its makeup every year,” says Trias Postdoctoral Fellow and incoming Director of Debate Danny Schonning ’16.  

The teams’ involvement in this tournament marks the beginning of expanded inclusion and access for HWS Debate, furthered by the team’s commitment to equity.

The same weekend, HWS hosted the second annual Finger Lakes Cup Challenge Debate. Teams from HWS, Cornell, Colgate and the University of Rochester competed. Representing HWS Debate were Sreyan Kanungo ’23 and Kayla Powers ’23, whose recent success includes breaking at the Worlds Championship. After an hour-long debate on the subject of eliminating tenure, the debaters from Cornell University were selected as the winners by five world-class adjudicators who observed the debate from Canada, England, Ghana, Poland and South Africa. Cornell received a $1,000 prize for the victory.