Conference on Cuban and Cuban American Studies
Image credit: Yamil Lage | AFP, July 11, 2021
Thirteenth Conference on Cuban and Cuban American Studies
CUBA BEFORE AND AFTER J11:
POLITICAL, ECONOMIC, AND CULTURAL DIMENSIONS
February 3–4, 2022
CRI continued its tradition of convening scholars and other persons interested in the study of Cuba and Cuban Americans by holding its Thirteenth Conference. The recent upsurge in the number of coronavirus cases due to the omicron variant forced us to hold the conference in a virtual format.
The 2022 conference was dedicated to Dr. Eliana Rivero, in recognition of her valuable contributions to Cuban and Latino cultural studies. A panel session assessed the significance of her work as a literary critic.
On Sunday, July 11, 2021 (J11), thousands of Cubans took to the streets to voice their discontent with the Island's government. Many demonstrators loudly chanted libertad (freedom), "down with the dictatorship," and Patria y vida (Fatherland and Life), the title of a critical rap song by Yotuel Romero, Gente de Zona, and other Cuban singers, which went viral in February 2021 and won the Best Song of the Year award at the Latin Grammys. Protesters also demanded the resignation of current president Miguel Díaz-Canel, calling him insulting names. The demonstrations started in the town of San Antonio de los Baños, near Havana, and quickly spread throughout the Island. Many young Black Cubans, both men and women, participated in these events. The protests were not called by a single opposition leader or organization, although the Cuban regime quickly detained some of the most visible dissidents. This was the first time in recent memory that economic and health complaints—such as the shortage of food, medicine, fuel, and other essential items—were translated into explicit political grievances for reform and even regime change.
The Thirteenth Conference on Cuban and Cuban American Studies took the protests of July 11, 2021, as a point of departure for reflection and discussion about the past, present, and future of Cuba. Our main theme, the political, economic, and cultural dimensions of Cuba after J11, invited interdisciplinary approaches to the complex, heterogeneous, and multiple layers of contemporary Cuban society, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Although we welcomed discussions about the recent situation and the future of Cuba, we invited a thorough retrospective examination of the causes and consequences of the J11 protests. We were especially interested in assessing the evolving relations between Cubans on and off the Island, particularly in South Florida.