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U. of Miami Faculty Decries Homage to Orlando Bosch

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Miami, U.S. academia 2 Comments »

A month ago, EthnoCuba denounced the homage to Orlando Bosch at the University of Miami. Subsequently, a letter of protest was made public at the initiative of UM alumni Isabel Alfonso and the media, very slowly and half-heartedly, picked up the story.

A few days ago, Prof. Lillian Manzor sent an update: the Latinamericanist faculty at UM responded, decrying and rejecting that homage in a letter that is reproduced below. The University administration, however, has said nothing. The Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies where the event take places apparently alleges that they merely rented the building space for the homage. I would think that the rental would not include the banners of the University and the Center, which were clearly visible in pictures and videos of the event.  Here at the University of California there have been many debates about what privatization means. If universities, private and public, are in such dire straits that they need to rent their facilities to outside groups, should not they, still, exert some judgement as to who and for what? Should a university rent its facilities to, say, the Ku Klux Klan? That begs the question: what is the price for which community principles are abandoned?

In any event, here is the response of the University of Miami Latin American Studies faculty.

[For an eloquent discussion in Spanish, with University of Miami’s Prof. Lillian Manzor, you might listen to Edmundo Garcia”s show La Noche Se Mueve of last November 16th. ]

November 10, 2010

To Our Colleagues in the Academic Community and Friends:

On October 12, 2010, Orlando Bosch, an internationally known and convicted terrorist, was paid homage at an event held on the premises of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) of the University of Miami. The U.S. Department of Justice has called this individual “a terrorist unfettered by laws of human decency, threatening and inflicting violence without regard to the identity of his victims.”

The undersigned faculty affiliated with the University of Miami’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLAS) wishes to declare that our Center and students had absolutely nothing to do with this event and firmly opposes holding such events and any other activity glorifying, condoning, or praising inhumane acts or violations of human rights, regardless of the alleged justification.

The Center’s mission is to promote the study of Latin America and the Caribbean in accord with principles of academic freedom, scholarly excellence, and respect for fundamental human rights. Ours is a Center devoted to educating students about the essential importance of tolerance and open-mindedness while pursuing high-quality research and community outreach throughout the Americas.

The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Miami, which has recently been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a Title VI National Resource Center, reaffirms its commitment to path breaking scholarship in the humanities, social sciences and related areas of academic research while also initiating new and innovative projects of broad public interest in partnership with fellow scholars and universities in the U.S. and throughout the hemisphere.

Thank you for your attention to this letter.

Signatures (in alphabetical order)

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Cuba @ the 2010 AAA meetings

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Conferences & CFPs 1 Comment »

The American Anthropological Association Meetings are in New Orleans this year, Nov. 18-21. These are the Cuba-related papers included in the program:

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Timba in Drag: Alida Cervantes

art, By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Cultural production, Gender & sexuality 4 Comments »

It is not so common for heterosexual women to dress in drag, as men, and mock gender stereotypes.  Not in the Cuban context. That is not to say that macho men mannerisms are not the objects of jokes and comic skits, like The Pichy boys do -to just name one example among many;  (some of their videos, aired at Miami’s canal 41, are on youtube and are hilarious. But Alida Cervantes, a San Diego-based, Tijuana-native, painter and an MFA candidate at UCSD, has a discourse about it that goes beyond the mere mockery and seeks to expose male domination and subvert Cuban -and Latin- machismo.  She does not propose to transcend the biologies of gender nor their social value -hers is not a queer performance. What she seeks is to destabilize the cultural associations that are attached to the male-female opposition in Latin societies. Alida is intimately acquainted with Afro-Cuban culture, partly via her life partner Silfredo La O Vigo, who is a supporting character in her “El Puro” series, pa’ que luego no digan de los hombres cubanos. She directly confronts the expectations surrounding heterosexual and interracial erotic desires by performing the various characters that conform this gendered universe. She dresses in drag and impersonates timba stars who, in turn, have made a career out of  glorifying their hyper machismo. She also takes on the role of the sexually voracious woman demanded by the macho man.

Alida uses play back to perform some of their most popular dance numbers, which, at the same time, she makes into video pieces. Here are two examples. In the first, she is performing Manolito y su Trabuco’s Te Dejo Libre, a song about a woman who, left by the man, will remain a spinster. In the second video, she performs all the characters, male and female, in a song by NG La Banda.

The Plane Crash and Cuba’s Local Journalism

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Images, media, News and Views 4 Comments »

My FBfr Tersites D. called our attention to the Granma paper’s front page, the morning after the plane crash of the Santiago-Havana AeroCaribbean flight that killed sixty-eight people. Where is the news?  This was one more instance of the Communist Party’s opacity. It is well known that rarely a news brief on someone’s death will detail the actual cause (e.g. dying after “a long and troublesome illness” is typically an euphemism for cancer). But this seems to top it all, and Tersites’ FBfrs rightfully shook their heads. The callousness of reducing such a catastrophe into an administrative technicality, removing any hint of human emotion, caused not so much surprise as sorrow; and sorrow not only for the victims of the plane but also for those of the paper (its readers).

Contrast that with the local Escambray paper of Sancti Spirtius, the nearest city to the crash. Like the Granma, it is also the voice of the Communist Party, but at the provincial level. Escambray was the first to twitter the news; by 9pm Eastern the bare information about the crash of the Santiago-Havana airliner had made it around the Twitter-world. Very soon after, the newspaper’s webpage begun to offer news as they trickled in.  Local papers of this kind typically carry local news that do not make it to the Granma, but their tone and approach is pretty much the same. In this case, the difference is dramatic, and it is not only a matter of aesthetics, which differentiate these two publications like night and day. While the national paper does not even include the news as news, Escambray paper gives it all, offering all available details, including graphic images occupying several pages.

That the Granma buries its head in the sand is not news. It is the voice of the bureaucracy, always removed from every day life. Its place seems to have been taken up by Cubadebate, which did keep web readers (therefore few Cubans) informed. The good news is that there is local reporting. That despite the crisis of journalism, particularly in printed form, this local paper, Escambray, displays a reporting that values “being there,” conveying to readers what is happening as is happening.

UPDATE (Nov. 8): For a very well narrated and very emotional account of what area residents heard and saw, including details about the activities in which various people were engaged in that very same moment and what they did immediately after, see today’s article in Escambray, “La Noche que Lloró Mayábuna,” which includes photos.

Exile Epics: Marco Rubio to the Senate

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, exile, Miami, Video - lecture and discussion 1 Comment »

It is worth listening to the new senator elect for Florida and TeaParty sympathizer Marco Rubio‘s acceptance speech. I had to listen to it after a friend reported that his speech was dishearteningly right-wing while another friend (Cuban exile) reported to be filled with emotion.

To me, it sounds awfully out of step with the experience of many people in this country (all those who have not managed to go from bellboy to president); but I suppose he is not talking to them here. He is paying homage to his family’s journey, and that is emotional: “I have been raised in a community that lost their country…  This is the story of the Cuban exile community… I will always be the son of exiles...” His is an American Dream story, an immigrant fable that says that you can make it to the top by pulling yourself up by your bootstraps; a story that was compelling at one point but that it sounds now more incredible than winning the lottery.  He talks about “the greatest society in human history” and about America as “the strongest country in the world” and “an extraordinary society where every dream is possible;” “there is at least one place in this planet where it doesn’t matter if your father was a bartender and your mom was a maid. You can accomplish anything you want if you’re willing to work hard for it and play by the rules” (“the rules” being a signal that illegal immigration will not be tolerated). From Cuban exceptionalism to American exceptionalism.

His is also an anti-communist parable:  He has been compared with Reagan and he indeed sounds like someone coming out from the Cold. Even though Marco Rubio does not mention the words “communism” or “revolution”– for him the Cuban Revolution is “an accident of history”– his narrative is a sort of Reaganesque reverse orientalism. His politics, far to the right of Reagan. If, according to the sociological lore, the first generation of exiles were visibly and famously Republican, and the one-and-a-half generation a rebel -with a high profile in academia and a significant number of them joining various brigades and going to Cuba in defiance of their parents- the second remains, let’s say, under studied. Another one of its members is the Republican congressman just elected for Miami, David Rivera, born in 1965, former manager of radio and TV Marti.

UPDATE (Nov. 5). For a broader social and generational perspective on both Rubio’s election and Ileana Rosh-Lehtinen’s reelection to Congress (feared to become the next chairperson of the Foreign Affairs committee, with its obvious negative implications for US Cuban academic exchanges), I recommend the just-published piece on the latest issue of Foreign Policy by colleague Arturo Lopez-Levy, Not Your Father’s Cuba.

After “In Sickness and Health: Encountering Wellness in Cuba and the U.S.”

By Paul Ryer, Conferences & CFPs, Health No Comments »

For the many ECers who were not able to attend the recent medical anthropology conference, “In Sickness and Health: Encountering Wellness in Cuba and the U.S.,” thanks to the University of California’s Cuba working group you can now find a useful write-up of the event here.  While we have not done many post-event postings, such a write-up  adds significant value to an event which brought together a number of esteemed medical anthropologists and specialists in Cuban health systems.  Something to keep in mind should you attend a similar event in the future, and have a bit of time to share your thoughts about it!

Kristina Wirtz, talk at the University of Chicago (11/8/10)

Anthropological institutions, By Paul Ryer, Calendar, Seminars & talks 1 Comment »

Kristina S. Wirtz, on “From Blackface to Voice of the Spirits: A ‘Brutology’ of Bozal

Monday, November 8, 2010,   3:30 pm University of Chicago,  Haskell 315

It was a great pleasure, and one more sign that anthropological scholarship on Cuba continues to prosper, to receive notice of the forthcoming talk by linguistic anthropologist Kristina Wirtz, author of Ritual, Discourse, and Community in Cuban Santería, and associate professor at Western Michigan U., at the mythical Monday Seminar of the University of Chicago Department of Anthropology.  As part of the anthropological community with sustained interest in Cuban research (among faculty, principally Stephan Palmié and Shannon Dawdy, as well as M.R. Trouillot, Marshall Sahlins, John Kelly and others, and, among  numerous Ph.D. students & graduates, ourselves, EthnoCuba’s editors), we are sorry to miss what will certainly be an outstanding talk and conversation!

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