GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The distance between Florida and Cuba is a short jaunt across the Gulf of Mexico as the crow flies, but until recently the aquatic divide may as well have been a brick wall for most Florida professors and students. That all changed earlier this year when President Barack Obama re-established diplomatic relations with our southern neighbors. Now, UF Law is taking the opportunity to expose students to a previously inaccessible trove of knowledge and opportunities.
An early and important step in this process took place last month, when University of Havana Law Professors Teresa Delgado Vergara and Marta Moreno Cruz spent the week of September 21 – 26 talking to students, meeting with faculty and exchanging ideas with the UF Law community.
Delgado specializes in civil law and Moreno specializes in intellectual property issues.
“It’s tremendously significant because it was the first Cuban professors who have visited us in over 50 years,” said Jon Mills, director of the Center for Governmental Responsibility. “They showed real interest in connecting with our faculty on a number of issues.”
Associate Dean for International Programs Lyrissa Lidsky said the visit was the first building block in a scholarly relationship that she hopes will eventually bear fruit. Establishing a dialogue with Cuban lawyers is critical moving forward as well.
“For lawyers in the state of Florida, there are going to be opportunities that will require an understanding of what’s going on in Cuba,” she said. “(Law firms) will be looking for students who are sophisticated in their understanding so they can advance their law firms’ plans to do business in Cuba and business with Cuba.”
During their visit, the professors met with a number of UF Law faculty members, in multiple individual meetings and an open coffee time in the faculty lounge. They also had multiple opportunities to meet and interact with students, including visits to Professor Hernandez-Truyol’s Trade and Human Rights class and Center on Children and Families Director Shani King’s Family Law class.
“As a Cuban student, getting to meet and speak with such brilliant and esteemed Cuban professors as Professors Delgado Vergara and Moreno Cruz was a real honor,” said UF Law student Alexander Castro (2L). “I think they are incredibly brilliant and kind women, and are phenomenal scholars with whom to begin UF’s relationship with the University of Havana. I think I speak for my fellow students when I say that meeting them provided us with a very real perspective on how different the law and political culture is in Cuba; both institutions have much to share with one another and can help each other grow immensely.”
For the next step in this new exchange, a group of UF Law faculty members are planning to visit the University of Havana in early November.