Manchester University
Oak Leaves

February 26, 2016

Professor Martin
Assistant Professor of Spanish, Juan Jesús Payán Martín

Manchester Welcomes New Assistant Spanish Professor 

Erin Fralick

“When you get lost, that’s when you get stories, because it’s a conflict you need to solve,” says Juan Jesús Payán Martín, visiting assistant professor of Spanish. Martín is halfway through his first year at Manchester University, where he has been teaching Spanish language classes as well as European literature.

Martín grew up in Cádiz, Spain, where he studied music and literature. He formed a poetry society called “the degeneration of ’98,” which was a play on the organization “the generation of ’98,” a group of poets that gathered in 1898. Martín’s poetry society would gather to drink coffee and discuss poetry, helping them prepare for their future careers as writers. Martín has published a book of poetry in Spain and is also included in an anthology of poets located in his province. “Everything I do in teaching comes from poetry,” Martín said.

He grew up in an environment that supported music; his father played the organ and encouraged him to take up an instrument as well. Martín plays the guitar and studied music at an institute in Spain that was founded by the composer Manuel de Falla. When Martín was enrolled in the institute, he found himself bored with playing scales and so he jumped from playing at a second-year level to playing at a sixth-year level. “If I listen to something, I can play it immediately,” he said. Although he chose to pursue literature, Martín still plays music and even tries to find ways to incorporate music into his lessons.

Martín has experienced many adventures before coming to the United States, where he completed his graduate work at UCLA. Whether it be experiencing snow for the first time in Siena, Italy, or cultural differences with public transportation in Lima, Peru, Martín has story for every place he’s travelled. However, the most memorable story details his trip to the Andes Mountains. Martín and friend were going to camp by the mountains, and, in order to get there, they both needed to take the bus. Martín could only describe the overcrowded bus “like a scene from a movie.” According to Martín, one man was even carrying a chicken.

When they reached their destination, Martín and his friend were dropped off in a small village where the only visible people were drunk men with missing teeth, missing fingers or a combination of the two. All of the buildings were closed, and it was then that Martín and his companion found out that there was no bus going through the village. The pair decided to walk to another village in search of a bus.

They trudged from village to village, eventually catching a ride in the back of a fruit vendor’s truck. The truck brought them to a village where the ground was so hot, the people were cooking their meat in pits they had dug in the earth. In that village, Martín and his friend were able to find a taxi driver that would take them back to the city; the only catch was that they had to ride in the trunk. “I thought I was being kidnapped,” Martín said about the experience.

Through this experience, Martín came to the conclusion that getting lost allows a person to find the best stories, a concept that might also influence the authors he teaches.