by Peter Pabisch
On November 12, 2008, the International Studies Institute (ISI) and other programs at the University of New Mexico, in cooperation with the official New Mexican non-profit organizations, “The Atlantic Bridge on the Camino Real” and the “Austrian-American Council of New Mexico,” commemorated “Ninety Years of the Republic of Austria” with generous book donations given to the University of New Mexico.
There are several reasons for holding this brief, but meaningful celebration. During the 16th and 17th century Austria, Spain and Latin America, including Nuevo Mexico and Santa Fe, and other areas belonged to a Habsburg Empire. Historical traces of this colonial union can be found within these vast borders. Whereas this bond goes back centuries, since the end of World War I Austria’s development has had a different significance to the United States of America. It began after the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when President Woodrow Wilson presented his Fourteen Points to the Paris Peace Conference, preparing the way for the founding of the Republic of Austria.
Several Austrians who fled the Nazi regime during WW II settled in New Mexico and contributed to the cultural reputation and economic welfare of this country. Some of the better known included faculty members such as Kurt Frederick, who rebuilt the UNM Symphony Orchestra in the 1940s and founded the Albuquerque Youth Symphony Orchestra in 1956; George Robert, leading UNM pianist also with the Seraphim Trio; and John Tatschl, art professor and sculptor who created the Lobo statue and the mural of the development of writing on the University Campus. In the private sector, Hannes Parnegg became known for his successful real estate business with historic adobe houses, and Kurt Kubie established three photography stores in the city. Both men served on the board of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra.
The guest of honor at this celebration was Dr. Fritz Cocron, former director of the Austrian Cultural Forums in New York, Warsaw and Paris. Following his retirement, he served as guest professor of history, political science and modern languages at UNM for twelve years. He will be 90 years of age in December. The event was also dedicated to the memory of Professor Wendelin Schmidt-Dengler of the University of Vienna, who was considered one of the world’s leading experts on Austrian literature, who died in early September.
by Peter Pabisch