Conference on Cuban and Cuban-American Studies

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One of the panels of CRI's 2017 conference was devoted to the work of Cristóbal Díaz-Ayala. From left to right: Díaz-Ayala, Dr. Uva de Aragón, Dr. Marysol Quevedo, Dr. Benjamin Lapidus, Verónica González, and Vicki Silvera.

Every two years, FIU's Cuban Research Institute (CRI) organizes a conference on Cuban and Cuban-American studies. Held since 1997, this meeting has become the largest international gathering of scholars specializing in Cuba and its diaspora.

CRI hosted its Eleventh Conference on Cuban and Cuban-American studies on February 23–25, 2017. This year's meeting was dedicated to the distinguished music collector, researcher, and author Cristóbal Díaz-Ayala, in recognition of his numerous contributions to the preservation, study, and promotion of Cuban music.

The program consisted of 41 panel sessions over three days, and featured experts in many disciplines of the social sciences and the humanities, particularly in literary criticism, history, political science, economics, music, and the arts. More than 250 participants came from universities throughout the United States and other countries such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, and Chile, as well as from others as far afield as Spain, France, Finland, and Poland.

The conference attracted renowned researchers and writers about the Cuban and Cuban-American experience, including Madeline Cámara, Carol Damian, Uva de Aragón, Alejandro de la Fuente, Cristóbal Díaz-Ayala, Reinaldo Funes, Lenier González, Katrin Hansing, Ted Henken, Iraida López, Ana Menéndez, Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Silvia Pedraza, Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva, Yolanda Prieto, Archibald R.M. Ritter, Eliana Rivero, Jorge Salazar-Carrillo, and Roberto Veiga. In addition, the program contained numerous presentations by younger scholars and graduate and undergraduate students.

The main theme of the conference, Beyond Perpetual Antagonism: Reimagining U.S.-Cuba Relations, invited interdisciplinary approaches to the multiple, complex, and often conflicting links between the two countries, both historically and in current times. The topics of discussion ranged widely from the political and economic changes initiated in U.S.-Cuba relations on December 17, 2014 (D17), to the historical and cultural ties of the Cuban diaspora to the Island since the late 19th century.

Several sessions examined relatively unexplored subjects such as Cuban architecture on the Island and abroad; scientific collaboration between Cuban and U.S. institutions; collecting and archiving Cuban art; the role of Catholic and Protestant churches in U.S.-Cuba relations; or the incorporation of Cuban themes in U.S. school curricula. Other key issues in rethinking Cuba's present and future included the development of civil society and self-employment; persistent inequalities by race, gender, and sexual orientation; media representations of Cuba and the United States, as well as transnational links between Cubans on and off the Island.

The plenary session featured notable experts on U.S.-Cuba relations, the central theme of the conference: Louis A. Pérez, Jr., María de los Ángeles Torres, Guillermo J. Grenier, and Michael J. Bustamante.

A public event connected to the conference was the screening of Marcelo Martín's film The Train on the Northern Railway. This documentary chronicles a painful journey that begins at the Morón train station and ends at Punta Alegre in the central Cuban province of Ciego de Avila. The screening was followed by a lively conversation with the director, film critic Nat Chediak, and Carlos de la Cruz, whose family is strongly linked to the area portrayed in the documentary. The panel discussion was moderated by Santiago Juan-Navarro.

The last event related to the conference was a well-attended public reading with Cuban-American authors Chantel Acevedo, Jennine Capó Crucet, Vanessa García, Ana Menéndez, and Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés, moderated by Dr. Iraida López at Books & Books in Coral Gables.

The conference was cosponsored by FIU's Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center.

To view the program of the Eleventh Conference, please click here.