Second Annual Latin American and Caribbean Studies Conference
Eastern’s Second Annual Latin American and Caribbean Studies Conference on April 29 in the Student Center Theater, featured informative presentations from nine Eastern professors on topics ranging from New World wine producers to tourism in Cuba, from issues of social justice in Brazil to a discussion of ancient Mayan culture, and much more. Keynote speaker Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, professor of history and director of the Institute of Latino, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies at the University of Connecticut, presented “Global Latin(o) Americanos: Transoceanic Diasporas and Regional Migrations.”
Sociology Professor Mary Kenny discussed maroon heritage in the sertão of northeast Brazil, where a history of unfair labor practices, poverty and drought are etched on bodies, in stories and on the landscape. She noted that in the past decade Brazil has significantly reduced poverty and inequality. However, land reform continues to be a contentious and dangerous process.
Geological Origins of Sugarloaf Peaks in Eastern Brazil
Environmental Earth Science Professor Dickson Cunningham explored the geological origins of Brazil’s sugarloaf landscapes and showed examples of the region’s stunning scenery and valuable but endangered biodiversity. With this year’s summer Olympics heading to Brazil, all eyes will be focused on the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro with its magnificent backdrop of forest-draped peaks including the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain. Sugarloaf mountains are widespread in eastern Brazil and are important refugia for indigenous flora and fauna.
To Develop and Preserve: Prospects and Challenges of Tourism Development in Cuba
Anthropology Professor Ricardo Pérez discussed tourism development in Jardines del Rey, an emerging tourist area on the north-central coast of the island, where programs for tourism development and environmental conservation are being implemented. Perez argued that Jardines del Rey presents the Cuban government with an opportunity to achieve the twin goals of economic and environmental sustainability.
Negotiating the Boundaries of Censorship in Cuba
In her presentation, Art History Professor Gail Gelburd described how, after the Revolution, Cuba acquiesced to the pressures of creating a Soviet-styled system that controlled artistic expression. She said with it came a wave of repression, referred to in Cuba as the “dark years.” Fidel Castro defined the boundaries of art as — “Inside the Revolution everything, Outside the Revolution nothing.” Gelburd said artists were left to wrestle with what it meant to be “within” the Revolution. When the walls of the Soviet Union collapsed, artistic voices in Cuba began to be heard again, but echoes of the days of censorship still occur, as with the recent house arrest of Tania Brughera.
Ancient Northern Maya Sites and the Manipulation of Viewer Experience
Maline Werness-Rude, assistant professor of art history, showed how the ancient Mayans used various architectural elements to frame viewer experience. Columns and piers are key features used to structure participants’ paths through centralized plaza spaces, yet they do so in ways that at first seem antithetically connected with misalignment and skewed perspectives. These columns and spaces, which proliferated in the northern Yucatán Peninsula especially, are not misalignments, but rather coded, directed indications regarding successful patterns of movement that provides a more nuanced understanding of site centers like Cozumel’s San Gervasio or Cancún’s El Meco, and also carry implications for associated ritual and/or ceremonial activity.
Diego Rivera: Man, Controller of the Universe
Student Dean Bonney, a visual arts major, examined Diego Rivera’s masterful mural “Man, Controller of the Universe.” Boney showed how Rivera presented a poignant, if controversial view of the dichotomy between capitalism and socialism and how technology can benefit or destroy humanity’s future. Rivera depicts the advancements of technology and our industrialization as steering humanity’s progress, with our social and political identity left uncertain, and ultimately, in danger.
Financialization in Caribbean Small Islands Developing States
Sociology Professor Dennis Canterbury explored the subject of financialization in Caribbean developing states under neoliberal globalization, arguing that neoliberal financialization is not a homogenous process because it is realized in a variety of ways. Canterbury employed a critical development studies approach to argue that neoliberal financialization serves to perpetuate imperial financial relations in the Caribbean.
Latin American New World Wine Producers
Emiliano Villanueva, assistant professor of business administration, examined concepts widely used in the literature of wine, such as Old World wine producers and New World wine producers; the geographical determination of the export boom that happened in the global wine industry in the second half of the 20th century; and explained how the Latin American New World wine producing countries had an outstanding performance in world markets at the time, showing how a “follower” approach to innovation allowed them to global sales success.
Revisiting Bolivia’s Constituent Assembly: Lessons on the Quality of Democracy
Political Science Professor Martín Mendoza-Botelho revealed how the Bolivian 2006-08 Constituent Assembly became an extraordinary example of democracy at work in a heterogeneous nation that still struggles to embrace its indigenous roots. The process itself, problematic and even violent at times, showed how pragmatic considerations and short-term political objectives were favored over painstaking institution-building efforts grounded on democratic values.
Leopoldo Navarro and Anamel DeLeón gave a demonstration of various Latin dance styles. Here, they perform salsa, a popular dance style with global commercial success.
Bolivian-born poet and writer Maria Cristina Botelho (left), mother of Political Science Professor Martín Mendoza-Botelho, reads from her works “In a Magical Instant,” “Death is a Pary” and “The Squares are Abounding with People. Esperanza Barcelona (right) of Puerto Rico, who is Mendoza-Botelho’s mother-in-law, served as translator.
Keynote: “Global Latin(o) Americanos: Transoceanic Diasporas and Regional Migrations”
Keynote speaker Mark Overmyer-Velázquez of the University of Connecticut noted that by the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the contribution of Latin America and the Caribbean to international migration amounted to more than 32 million people, or 15 percent of the world’s international migrants. Although most have headed north of the Rio Grande/Bravo and Miami, in the past decade Latin American and Caribbean migrants have travelled to new destinations, within the hemisphere and to countries in Europe and Asia, at greater rates than to the United States