College of Arts & Sciences Professor of Spanish Receives Gold Medal in 2014 Florida Book Awards

‘La Florida: Five Hundred Years of Hispanic Presence’ Edited by Viviana Díaz Balsera Selected from More Than 200 Submissions

La Florida: Five Hundred Years of Hispanic Presence – a collection of essays marking the quincentennary of Juan Ponce de León’s landfall on the Atlantic coast of what would become Florida – has received the Gold Medal in the 2014 Florida Book Awards Non-Fiction Category.

Viviana Díaz Balsera, a professor of Spanish in the UM College of Arts & Sciences Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, edited the volume, along with Rachel A. May, a professor of Latin America and the Caribbean at the University of South Florida.

The book brings together 13 essays by leading national and international scholars from various academic disciplines to facilitate an understanding of the complex Trans-Atlantic connections among Spain, Africa and the Americas. These relationships influenced Florida’s past; led to the demands that the state is facing in the present as a crossroads of cultures, people and legacies; and engendered the challenges that will shape its future as one of the nation’s most diverse states.

The book originated from the February 2012 conference “Florida at the Crossroads: Five Hundred Years of Encounters, Conflicts, and Exchanges.” Funded by the Florida Humanities Council and organized by Díaz Balsera and the College of Arts & Sciences Center for the Humanities; more than 500 people attended the three-day event.

“Distinguished experts in Florida studies from the United States and from Spain came together to discuss the rich yet difficult and complex history of Florida from interdisciplinary perspectives,” Díaz Balsera said, adding that the University Press of Florida immediately accepted the volume of expanded essays from the meeting for publication. 

La Florida “is a book that without subscribing to a traditional chronological narrative is nonetheless able to offer the reader a panoramic, interdisciplinary perspective of five centuries of Florida’s history, culture and politics with special emphasis on its deep Hispanic roots and indelible legacy,” she said.

The 2014 Florida Book Awards represent the ninth year of the competition, and more than 200 books were submitted across nine categories for this recognition.

April 2015 will bring a host of events in Tallahassee to recognize the book award winners. These include The Florida Book Awards Annual Banquet, a luncheon hosted by Florida First Lady Ann Scott, a panel at the World of the South literary and music festival, and the annual Florida Heritage Awards Ceremony and Reception.

An autographed copy of La Florida will be placed in the Florida Governor’s Mansion Library.

Díaz Balsera said receiving the award is “a great honor,” adding, “But the cheers must go especially to the 13 experts on Florida whose wonderful essays, readiness and willingness to join both the conference and the book projects – were an inspiration throughout and made the book to be as good as it is.”

In December, the Center for the Humanities presented a book talk by Díaz Balsera and May at Books & Books in Coral Gables.

February 17, 2015