Hampshire College next month will mark the 15-year anniversary of its Cuba study abroad and exchange program, with a two-day celebration and guest speakers who are leaders in US-Cuba relations. Since 2000, Hampshire’s Cuba study abroad program has immersed Hampshire students in Cuban culture, connecting them with the creative community through ties with the Cuban Union of Artists and Writers (UNEAC) and housing them for a semester with Cuban families. Students attend classes and complete independent projects while being tutored by Cuban professionals in their fields of interest. In return, the program brings Cuban artists and writers to Hampshire through the Visiting Cuban Scholars program.
“The Cuba program was kind of a people-to-people effort to go beneath the blockade and establish a relationship,” says Professor of Sociology Margaret Cerullo, who has long been involved with the Cuba program. “It’s always been a solidarity project, and unique among programs in that our students are paired with Cuban tutors and live with Cuban families, so they see what daily life is like and meet Cuban kids their own age.” For information and program contacts, see https://www.hampshire.edu/geo/hampshire-in-cuba
Speakers at the event’s Eqbal Ahmad lecture, titled “U.S.–Cuba Relations: Past, Present, and Future,” will be former chief of mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana Wayne Smith, and the eminent historian and leading U.S. scholar of Cuba, Louis A. Pérez, Jr. The lecture which is free and open to the public, will be held on Thursday, November 5, at 4 p.m. in the Robert Crown Center at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. The annual Eqbal Ahmad Lecture honors the teaching, scholarship, and activism of the late Eqbal Ahmad, a longtime Hampshire College professor and internationally renowned scholar, writer, and political analyst.
Then on Friday, November 6, a daylong colloquium “Cuba today: What will the United States encounter in Cuba in the 21st century?” will celebrate Hampshire’s longstanding ties with the island nation.
Event speaker Wayne Smith was in the U.S. embassy in Havana when the Cuban Revolution took power in 1959 and remained until it was closed in 1961. One of the State Department’s foremost experts on Cuba, in 1977 President Carter appointed him first chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. Author of The Closest of Enemies: A Personal and Diplomatic History of the Castro Years, he has worked unsparingly and intensively to change U.S. policy toward Cuba. Smith was head of the Latin America Rights & Cuba Project at the Center for International Policy from 1992 to 2015, and is currently retired.
The event’s other speaker is Louis A. Pérez, Jr., one of the most eminent historians of U.S.-Cuban relations. His work has focused on the tangled web of associations and interactions as they have evolved through the 19th and 20th centuries. He is the author of numerous books, the latest of which is his most recent, The Structure of Cuban History: Meanings and Purpose of the Past. Dr. Pérez is the J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of History and Director at the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
The daylong colloquium on Friday November 6 will feature tributes to Professor of Politics Carollee Bengelsdorf, who founded the Cuba program, and Professor of Film and Photography Jacqueline Hayden, who has been a key participant. Events include:
- A morning session with Eduardo Hernandez, the Cuban graphic artist and photographer; and Jaime Rodriguez, the chief architect in charge of the restoration of Old Havana. They will address Professor Hayden’s work in Cuba and her collaborations with Cuban artists.
- An afternoon session focusing on Professor Bengelsdorf’s work on women in Cuba and the problem of democracy during the revolution.
- Individual sessions with Professor Pérez; the artist Yillian Torres; the essayist, cultural critic, and Cuba program cofounder Alfredo Prieto; the novelist and literary critic Maggie Mateo; Smith College Professor of Economics Andrew Zimbalist; the feminist journalist Mirta Rodríguez Calderón; and the feminist film critic Danae Dieguez.