Debate En Espanol: Debate in our terms

From: Dennis Martinez & Alexa Figueroa, Class of 2021:


Over the weekend of February 12, the Washington Urban Debate League (WUDL) provided us with the opportunity to debate at the first Spanish-Language policy debate competition on the national circuit, Harvard University's Debate En Espanol.

Going into the tournament, we felt excited about the prospect of debating in our native language and representing the league and all Hispanic debaters. Like all tournaments this year, the Spanish policy debate tournament was held online which gave our families the opportunity to hear our arguments and follow along with our debates. It was was especially important for us to incorporate Spanish- speaking debaters into the conversation of this year's topic because the Hispanic community has been greatly affected by the criminal justice system via harsh sentencing and policing.


"My mom... was so proud of me for standing up for immigrants when she found out our affirmative was to advocate for the abolition of immigration and customs enforcement.”

-- Dennis


The tournament began on Friday with a social event in which we joined a zoom call with fellow competitors, coaches, judges and tournament organizers in which we got to bond through playing online games and speaking to our fellow competitors.

The day of the tournament, we were nervous. While we had debated many times before, this was our first competition in Spanish. We were worried about incorrectly translating the technical debate terms into Spanish, but ultimately we prevailed and found a solution that worked best for us. We have been debating for three years now, always in English. We always thought about all of our classmates who fear joining debates due to the language barrier but this past weekend, we got the chance to represent them.


“It was exciting to see the activity expand past linguistic boundaries.”

-- Alexa

Round after round we would have phone calls during our break, preparing our strategies and executing them. Then on Valentines Day, when we expected to sleep in, we instead made it to Semi-finals and Finals of the tournament. A really big distinction we saw at this tournament was how much fun everyone was having simply speaking Spanish. Everyone was so comfortable. In turn, that environment made us feel comfortable as well.


“I am typically anxious in a debate round, especially when I am negative but for the first time ever, I felt like this is a space that I was always meant to be a part of, I never once felt excluded.”

-- Dennis

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