Award ceremonies may appear to simply be venues through which societies recognize achievements, but one look at the Oscars’ race controversies and it becomes clear that they are also politically-charged. The act of choosing which people or things are recognized creates a reflection of the values of a community, whether it is those of Hollywood film critiques or a city like Málaga.
Although Spain has it’s own version of the Oscars, called the Goyas after famous Spanish painter Francisco de Goya, and Málaga even has its own film awards, Las Biznagas de Oro (The Golden Biznaga), which refers to the city’s jasmine flower symbol, the city also annually awards “Medallas Ateneo.” Given by the Ateneo de Málaga, a society that celebrates and preserves Málaga culture, every year these medals are distributed to people or organizations that best represent and contribute to Málaga.
I got to attend the “Acto de entrega de Medallas Ateneo 2017,” held on May 9, 2017, because Dickinson itself had been awarded a prize for its longstanding partnership with Málaga and its commitment to international cultural exchange. It was an amazing honor to be invited to the beautiful Sala Unicaja de Conciertos, treated to impressive music by the Orquesta Joven Promúsica, and surrounded by so many important malagueños.
Four other awards were given in addition to Dickinson’s, however, to me the most interested was presented to Jaime Rodríguez Martínez, a professor of Ecology at the University of Málaga, for his work researching marine ecosystems. He was introduced by Jorge Baro Domínguez, the director of the Málaga Center of Oceanography which is part of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography. Jesús Regodón Regodón, secretary of the Ateneo de Málaga presented the medal to Martínez himself.
Martínez’s selection stood out because it marked sustainability as one of Málaga’s priorities. One of the biggest struggles in combating climate change is getting people to change the ways in which hey are accustomed to living, that is, changing their culture. Martínez’s inclusion among human rights advocates, journalists, arts institutions (and Dickinson) signifies that environmental investigations are taken seriously by the city, and that sustainability is considered to be a tenet of Málaga culture. Whether this is a reflection of the actual sentiments in Málaga or a projections of a desired culture shift is yet to be seen, but maybe it doesn’t matter. The Medallas Ateneo bring attention to Málaga culture, but they are also part of this culture. If we live in a “fake it ’til you make it” world, I would say sustainability is putting on a pretty convincing act in Málaga.