Symposium to address current Cuban issues
Published: Friday, November 9, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 9, 2012 02:11
A symposium titled “Cuba (Re)Considered: New Perspectives from Havana” will be held today in the Remis Sculpture Court at the Aidekman Arts Center to discuss contemporary social and academic issues in Cuba.
The event will include presentations from five of the nine students who conducted independent research in Havana, Cuba for six weeks over the summer within a program run by Norfolk State University. The research topics include race, health, agriculture, economy and alternative energy in Cuba.
The other speakers include Gloria Rolando, Tomas Robaina, Jorge Fornet and Roberto Zurbano, four Cuban academics who worked with the students last summer at La Casa de las Americas, a subsidiary of the University of Havana.
This summer marks the first time that Tufts students have participated in a program of this nature in Cuba, Ruben Stern, director of the Latino Center, said.
The symposium is particularly relevant now, as it is a time of political transformation both in Cuba and in the United States, according to senior Averi Becque, who will be presenting her research at the symposium.
“This is a good time to bring the topic to Tufts and open the issue for debate on campus,” Becque said.
A large part of the symposium will be to highlight the research students conducted while abroad, according to Stern. The presentations will provide insight into the unique social and political happenings in Cuba, he said.
“In Cuba they do things differently,” Stern said. “Their health care, their education system, the way they deal with hurricanes.”
The symposium is particularly important due to a general lack of knowledge about Cuba among Americans, Stern noted.
“In the media you get no sense about what’s happening in Cuba besides the negative things and the political things,” he said. “In our country there is incredible ignorance about what is going on in Cuba, even within academic circles.”
Becque agreed, explaining that Cubans know more about the United States than Americans know about Cuba.
“To people in Cuba, the [United States] is very important. It has a lot to do with how they live their daily lives and the political realities that they face,” she said. “It seems mind-boggling that people know so little about Cuba here, when we have such a big impact on what is going on there.”
The Cubans at the symposium will present on a diverse range of topics, providing a perspective many Americans do not normally get a chance to hear, Stern said. He added that the speakers are at the top of their fields around issues of race, music and Afro-Cuban relations.
The event is intended to draw students interested in everything from Spanish and Latin American studies, to international relations, history, music and race relations, he said.
“Cuba is a changing place, it’s a dynamic place, and I think this is an important opportunity to get a chance to examine and study it,” Stern said.
Professor of Latin American Literature Jose Mazzotti believes that students and faculty alike will acquire valuable knowledge from attending the symposium.
“[Cuba] might be in a crisis, but they are still implementing creative solutions,” he said. “I think that both students and faculty have a lot to learn from Cuba.”
The Cuban panelists have also presented at other events this week. Literary and cultural studies specialist Fornet gave a lecture Thursday, which Mazzotti said offered a panoramic view of current cultural initiatives and movements on the island.
Screenings of Rolando’s documentaries on the Afro-Cuban movement and the Cuban Independent Party of Color also took place this week, Becque said.
The symposium is co-sponsored by the Latino Center, the Department of Romance Languages, the International Relations Program, the Department of Political Science, the Department of Sociology, the Africana Center, Latino Studies and the Department of Anthropology and Norfolk State University International Studies/Service Learning.