Featured on CNN: What Cuba Deal Says to Latin America


Cuban flags outside the U.S. Interest Section in Havana.

ISA Director Louis A. Pérez, Jr. is featured on CNN for his editorial, “What Cuba Deal Says to Latin America.” The article comes following President Obama’s announcement that the United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century. President Raúl Castro also made an announcement dedicating the Cuban government to resolve “profound differences” on issues.

In the editorial, Pérez writes that Obama normalizing relations with Cuba is an overdue moment of U.S. lucidity. He says it removes Cuban leadership pretext for “moral authority” in the face of U.S. hostility, and gives Cubans the space to decide their own best interests.

Read the editorial here.

 Louis A. Perez Jr. is the J. Carlyle Sitterson professor of history and the director of the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Among his books are “Cuba in the American Imagination: Metaphor and the Imperial Ethos” and “Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution.”

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UNC Scientist Dale L. Hutchinson Elected AAAS Fellow


Credit: Dale L. Hutchinson

UNC Anthropology Professor and Graduate Student Advisor Dale L. Hutchinson is one of six scientists to be named an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow. The researcher is one of 401 new fellows chosen to be part of the world’s largest general scientific society.

Recipients of the award are selected based on their distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. According to the UNC College of Arts & Sciences, Hutchinson is recognized for “distinguished contributions to the study of ancient disease and health, especially in understanding pathogen-host interactions from human remains and archaeological contexts.”

Hutchinson researches Andean South America and the origins of the state in the Lake Titicaca region. He has worked on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca with formative period remains, which are remains from Mesoamerican societies that existed as early as 1000 BCE.

A complete list of fellows appears in the Nov. 28 issue of Science


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UNC Department of Classics Presents Francisco Barrenechea

Join the UNC Department of Classics to hear Francisco Barrenechea, University of Maryland, present

“Tragic impostures: Greek tragedy and pre-Hispanic myth in the theater of Rodolfo Usigli and Salvador Novo.”

Dec. 4, 2014

5 p.m.

Murphey 104

Reception to follow.

Read more.

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Celebrating the Day of the Dead

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Sharon Mujica,  former director of educational outreach for the Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at UNC and Duke, speaks with the Daily Tar Heel about the Day of the Dead

She was traveling to a village to witness the Mexican holiday, known in English as the Day of the Dead, and had to travel through a water canal in Xochimilco, an ancient part of Mexico that dates back to the time of the Aztecs.

Mujica, a 1962 UNC graduate and former director of educational outreach for the Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at UNC and Duke, hired a boat and rode through darkness to the town.

She said the image that rose out of the darkness of the canal upon her arrival was enchanting.

“The people were in the cemetery, and there was all this light,” she said. “There was some music from a band and people wandering around. It was just magical — it was absolutely magical to me.”

Mujica originally went to Mexico with her father on vacation but decided to stay after falling in love with the people and the culture.

“I really stayed because I wanted to learn Spanish, and I was in a town where they had a very good language school,” she said.

Mujica said in her years in Mexico, during which time she married and had children, her family engaged in some parts of the Day of the Dead celebration, like eating the traditional bread, but didn’t go to the cemeteries.

It was only after she returned to the United States in 1985 that she began making traditional Day of the Dead altars for display in museums and other art spaces.

“I found it to be something I thought would add to the community — an understanding of different cultures and traditions,” she said. “I was in Latin American studies and working with community outreach. It seemed like something that could kind of fill that need.”

There are many different origin stories for the Mexican holiday, which is traditionally celebrated between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2.

Some writers believe it’s a manifestation of the Mexican practice of looking at death with laughter.

Mujica thinks it came from traditions so ancient they can be traced back to pre-Columbian times, when people set aside the months of September and October to celebrate the dead.

As time went on, different traditions merged to create the modern culture of the holiday, some of which will be celebrated with the Carolina Hispanic Association Dia de los Muertos social today.

Freshman Kristen Gardner, first-year chairwoman for CHispA, is helping to organize the event. She said she wants it to be inclusive of but not limited to Latinos.

The celebration will begin with a trivia game to test what people know about the holiday and determine stereotypes they might have.

“Based on those responses, we’re going to lead into a discussion. We really want the discussion to be open and based on personal experience,” she said.

“Those who don’t celebrate the Day of the Dead, we want them to speak up about what they do, maybe if they celebrate Halloween or have another way to honor the dead.”

When the Spanish conquered Mexico, they incorporated the Christian All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day into their celebration. In the 1800s, skeletons became a staple in Day of the Dead decorations after a cartoonist began drawing caricatures of skeletons in his work.

But the purpose of the Day of the Dead remained the same, serving as a time to remember the lives of the departed.

Mujica said the holiday’s central belief is that the dead will visit their family members in spirit if the family prepares an altar and a feast of their favorite foods. She said the altars are typically adorned with candles and pictures of the deceased with personalized touches.

“If somebody smoked a cigarette, they’ll put a cigarette there, or if it was a child, they’ll put candy — special things that people liked,” she said. “For my mother, I always put out chocolate because she loved chocolate.”

Mujica said in the early afternoon on the Day of the Dead, families gather at the altar and eat the food they have prepared for the dead. Then they take the celebration to the cemetery.

“The belief is that first, the departed come to the house and share the meal and then you accompany them back to the cemetery because they’re going to go back to wherever they came from, whatever your belief is, and so you want to accompany them back to the cemetery,” she said.

But Mujica said it isn’t a solemn holiday.

“It’s sort of a happy thing because you’ve been remembering your ancestors and enjoying their presence, and then they’re going to go back to where they came from and you’re going to get ready for the next year,” she said.

Mujica said important aspects of the celebration include the flower of the Day of the Dead — known in English as the marigold — Day of the Dead bread and candy skulls.

Gardner said the thing she finds most interesting about the holiday is that it’s been adopted by cultures both in and outside of Mexico.

“The coolest thing is the variance in the way that people celebrate this holiday. It’s most commonly practiced in Mexico, but there are other countries that do celebrate either the Day of the Dead or holidays that are similar to the Day of the Dead,” she said. “That’s really interesting in that it reflects a common culture that many Latino countries do share but how each one has its own little flair.”

Jenice Ramirez, vice president of Immersion for Spanish Language Acquisition in Chapel Hill, said the organization — which caters to young Spanish speakers in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham — will also be celebrating the Day of the Dead.

ISLA will host a Day of the Dead festival on Sunday that will have crafts for children, popular Latin American foods and folk dances.

“Family is a huge thing in the Hispanic culture, and this is their way of doing that — of sharing their culture and bringing their families together and celebrating,” she said.

Mujica said she will be celebrating the Day of the Dead this year and has invited a group of people to her home. She said she has made an altar to which guests will be able to add.

“I’ve found that people really like that,” she said. “People here react to it and understand it the more they see it and experience it.”

She specifically remembers something she saw in some Mexican towns: Residents would take all of the petals off of a marigold flower and make a trail from a home altar out to the gate of the house to guide the spirits in.

“That’s really very beautiful,” she said. “That’s a special thing.

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Alumna Provides Pro Bono Legal Services to Women and Children in Artesia, New Mexico

Alarming images of women and children have emerged on the news, illustrating the urgent humanitarian crisis at the U.S. border. Thousands from Central America seek asylum or other protections and are being housed at a detention facility in Artesia, New Mexico. According to Destination Due Process, “without proper representation, statistically only 1 or 10 of them will succeed in the claims for relief or asylum — to which they are entitled under current US laws.”
Natalie Teague, Latin American Studies ’04 alumna, seeks to change that.

Natalie Teague

Natalie Teague; Photo by Mike Belleme

Teague is the owner and founding attorney at Teague Immigration Law Office in Asheville, NC. She is spending Oct. 18-25 in Artesia, New Mexico with three other North Carolina-based bilingual immigration attorneys. The team is providing pro bono legal services to women and children and documenting their experiences on the blog, Destination Due Process.

Teague writes, “Quite frankly, it does not matter what you believe about our immigration system — detaining children is wrong.  I have visited clients in both state and federal facilities and this is some of the tightest security I’ve ever seen — more than what happens when defendants are on trial for the most heinous of crimes. But the kicker is that these are moms and kids.”

Read more from Natalie and the team here.
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Photo Gallery: CGI Global Opportunities Reception

The Institute for the Study of the Americas was proud to take part in the September Global Opportunities Reception, an event attended by students and families during the 2014 Family Weekend. Experienced students, faculty and staff shared their global stories and general information regarding remarkable, secure and affordable global opportunities available at UNC Chapel Hill.

This event was organized by the Center for Global Initiatives and Global Relations.

Photo Credit: Robert Berges, ’15.

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Digital Portobelo: Connecting Scholarship and Cultural Preservation in Panama


UNC Professor Renee A, Craft (left). Credit: Roni Nicole; Carolina Arts & Science Magazine

An interactive collection featuring UNC Communication Studies and Curriculum in Global Studies Assistant Professor Renee Alexander Craft’s field research is featured in Carolina Arts & Science Magazine

Alexander Craft is the author of “When the Devil Knocks: The Congo Tradition and the Politics of Blackness in 20th Century Panama” (The Ohio State University Press, January 2015).

Her work also includes a collaborative research initiative called The Portobelo Digital Oral History Project, which explores an Afro-Latin community located in the Panama town of Portobelo and the “Congo” tradition. This custom honors the history of the cimarrones, runaway enslaved Africans who fought for and won their freedom during the Spanish colonial period through storytelling and music.

This mask, created by Sarabi Jimenez, is a fusion of the Congo Carnival queen and devil characters. Credit: Renee Craft.

This mask, created by Sarabi Jimenez, is a fusion of the Congo Carnival queen and devil characters. Credit: Renee Craft.

Alexander Craft was selected as the inaugural Digital Innovation Lab/Insititute for the Arts & Humanities Fellow. The Lab is a project-focused hub for collaborative, interdisciplinary discovery, experimentation, implementation, and assessment in the use of digital technologies to advance the work of the Univerisity in the humanities and humanistic social sciences.

In responding to a call from the community for greater preservation, Alexander Craft’s field research of interviews, photos, videos, and archival materials are now online at digitalportobelo.org. Read more about Alexander Craft, Portobelo, and the “Congo” tradition here.

For more information on Digital Portobelo, click here.

For more on this project and to see the feature on UNC Global, click here






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Cravey’s documentary to be screened at American Indian film festival

We are pleased to share the news that UNC geographer Altha Cravey’s documentary was selected to screen on Oct. 12, 2014 at the Fifth Annual Film Festival of the American Indian Movement, West, in Santa Rosa, California. We hope you enjoy the original article (below)!.

Original publication here.


From the cemetery scene of the “Day of the Dead’ festival in San Pablito.

A documentary by UNC geographer Altha Cravey that explores the connections of the indigenous Otomi people in Durham, N.C., and in their hometown of San Pablito, Mexico, has been selected for an American Indian film festival.

Cravey is an associate professor of geography in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. The film, “Seed Spirits: The Otomi of Carolina del Norte,” will be screened at the Fifth Annual Film Festival of the American Indian Movement West (AIM-West) on Oct. 12 in Santa Rosa, Calif.

The film was supported by the N.C. Arts Council Folklife Division. Additional producers/directors are Elva E. Bishop and Ciro Arroyo Vicente.

The main source of livelihood in the town of San Pablito, a small village in highland Pueblo, is artisanal papermaking. Papel amate was used for creating the ancient Mexican codices. In the last generation, Otomi (who call themselves Hyuhnu) have relocated to Durham, N.C., and are sending remittances back to supplement earnings from papermaking. The documentary focuses on indigenous traditions that mark the cycle of life and the passing of the seasons: Carnavala Quinciñera, and Day of the Dead. In addition, Don Alfonso Garcia, a leading curandero (traditional healer or shaman)of San Pablito, speaks about the role of seed spirits cut from sacred paper in his healing work.

A trio of young musicians from the band, Semblanza Huasteca

Films selected for the AIM-WEST festival exemplify the legacy and spiritual movement of resistance, and the fight for self-determination found among indigenous peoples throughout the globe. Held each year on Indigenous People’s Day, the festival offers an educational alternative to the stories typically associated with Columbus Day and what it means to indigenous people throughout the Americas.


For more on Cravey’s film, visit http://seedspirits.unc.edu/about.html.


For more about the film festival, visit http://bennyjcuellar.wix.com/aim-international-film-festival.



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The 2014 NC Latin American Film Festival

The 2014 NC Latin American Film Festival | SOUNDS & RHYTHMS From Latin America and the Caribbean  

Save the dates, September 25 to November 6, 2014.

Festival Week October 4 – 11, 2014. 

Contact information:

Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University

Attn: Miguel Rojas-Sotelo. Festival Director

Tel: (919) 681 3883 / (919) 358 0787 mobile.

Email: mlr34@duke.edu

Address:  133 John Hope Franklin Center, Duke University, 2204 Erwin Road, Durham, NC 27705

  From September 25 to November 6, Durham and Chapel Hill will enjoy sounds, rhythms, images, and stories from the Americas. This year the festival focuses on the way music/rhythm is intertwined within the social, cultural, and historical constructions of the region. Sound-scapes and rhythm-scapes that represent the joys and sorrows and the individual and collective voices of peoples across the hemisphere will encapsulate the fundamental relationship between life and music in the Americas. Audiences will enjoy the presence of filmmakers, musicians, and artists.   The NC Latin American Film Festival (NC LAFF) is a signature event of the UNC-Duke Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.  It is also a key “Hispanic Heritage Month” event. Do not miss it!

Visit our web site: Here


2014 NCLAFF Program_SR_

This year the festival features 17 feature length films, in addition to a number of short films, and video clips. Also the NC LAFF will feature “live music” by local musicians accompanying some of the films of the festival: Bradley Simmons, the accomplished Afro-Cuban drum player and director of the Duke Djembe Ensemble, together with other musicians, will perform a “live-score” of the film SEMPER FIDEL; Chilean composer and musician Carlos Salvo will feature his new composition honoring Violeta Parra, titled “Allegro con Brio;” finally L.E.T.A.L., a local Latin Rock Band will close the festival with a special “jam-session” for those followers of South American rock music. (See more details in the general program)

Festival highlights include:   10/4. SAT. Richard White Auditorium, Duke. Durham. 4:00pm CHICO & RITA. Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal & Tono Errando / Cuba, Spain, UK, Argentina / 2012 / 94 min. Spanish with English subtitles. Chico is a dashing piano player and Rita is an enchanting and beautiful Havana nightclub singer. When they meet, the sparks fly and they fall madly in love. A tribute to a vibrant and colorful time in the history of both Cuba and jazz. The soundtrack features music of jazz legends Thelonious Monk, Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie and Freddy Cole, performed by Idania Valdés, Carlos Sarduy, Horacio Hernández, Rolando Luna, Germán Velazco and Jorge Reyes.

chico and rita

Chico y Rita

10/4. SAT. Richard White Auditorium, Duke. Durham. 7:00pm SEMPER FIDEL. Robert Pietri / Cuba, USA / 2014 / 90 min. English and Spanish with English subtitles. Spinning a classic, multifaceted story against an uncommon backdrop, Semper Fidel tells the tale of a U.S. Marine who investigates the life of his father, a Cuban sports star. Stunning scenes against the Cuban landscapes and the city of Havana propel this character-driven drama forward, highlighting the conflict of place and identity the protagonist feels, and allowing the viewer to take the journey alongside him. *Special Screening with live-score performance, featuring Bradley Simmons and participation of the Film Director. Q&A following the screening.


Semper Fidel

10/6. MON. Carolina Theatre. Durham. 7:00pm VIOLETA SE FUE A LOS CIELOS | VIOLETA WENT TO HEAVEN. Andrés Wood / Chile / 2011 / 110 min. Spanish with English subtitles. The film tells the story of famed Chilean singer and folklorist Violeta Parra, tracing her evolution from impoverished child to international sensation and Chile’s national hero, while capturing the swirling intensity of her inner contradictions, fallibilities, and passions. Her achievements are suspended in a passionate journey with the characters that made her dream, laugh and cry. *Special musical introduction by Chilean composer and interpreter Carlos Salvo.

10/7. TUE. Full Frame Theatre, American Tobacco Campus. Durham. 7:00pm BAÍA DE TODOS OS SANTOS | BAY OF ALL SAINTS. Annie Eastman / US-Brazil / 2012 / 74 min. Portuguese with English subtitles. In Salvador da Bahía, next to one of Brazil’s wealthiest cities, generations of impoverished families have lived in a community of palafitas, shacks built on stilts over the ocean bay. Under a government program to reclaim and restore the bay, hundreds of families face forced relocation. Filmed over six years, this extraordinary documentary offers fresh insights into environmental justice and notions of home for citizens bypassed by Brazil’s economic boom.

10/9. THU. Carolina Theatre. Durham. 7:00pm MERCEDES SOSA. LA VOZ DE LATINOAMERICA | MERCEDES SOSA. THE VOICE OF LATIN AMERICA. Rodrigo Villa / Argentina / 2013 / 52 min. Spanish with English subtitles. Journey into the world of Argentina’s most famous musical artist. Over a career that spanned 50 years, Sosa sold millions of records, performed thousands of concerts all over the world, and left behind an incredible legacy as an artist who went beyond the borders of music to become one of the most influential – and loved – personalities of the 20th century.

Mercedes  Sosa

Mercedes Sosa

10/10. FRI. Nelson Mandela Auditorium. UNC-Chapel Hill. 7:00pm PELO MALO | BAD HAIR Mariana Rondón / Venezuela / 2013 / 93 min. Spanish with English Subtitles. A nine-year-old boy, Junior, lives in a Caracas shanty-town; he is obsessed with becoming a singer and having straight long-hair, which elicits a tidal wave of homophobic panic in his hard-working mother. She loves her kids, would endure almost anything for them, but she cannot abide Junior’s preening and fussing over his appearance.

pelo malo

Pelo Malo

10/11. SAT. Nelson Mandela Auditorium. UNC-Chapel Hill. 4.00pm TROPICÁLIA. Marcelo Machado / Brazil / 2012 / 87 min. English and Portuguese with English subtitles. This carefully researched film investigates the cultural movement dubbed Tropicália, which began in Brazil during the 1960s as a reaction to the popular music and nationalism of the period. Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Tom Zé and others mull over their experiences from that time, while magnificent archival footage brings to life the sheer inventiveness and political reach of “Tropicalism.”

GIMME THE POWER. Olallo Rubio / Mexico / 2012 / 90 min. Spanish with English subtitles. Gimme the Power presents a version of the history of Mexico by using popular culture, in particular the work of the rock band MOLOTOV. The members of the band become informants of such reality by sharing the stories of the lyrics of their songs while they were developed. Both history and story telling (from the perspective of the musicians) are intertwined. A country in constant crisis, a search for a real democracy after the hegemony of the PRI, and a band that gives the ‘soundtrack” of discontent.   Additionally the NC LAFF presents a photo exhibit by local photographer and documentarian Charles D. Thompson titled

ROSTROS DEL TIEMPO | FACES OF TIME. September 30 to December 15, 2014, John Hope Franklin Center Hall Gallery. 2204 Erwin Road. Durham, NC. 27705. In conjunction with the exhibit we will host a panel discussion on the history of Braceros on October 8, 2014 as part of the Wednesdays at the Center series, noon-1pm. John Hope Franklin Center, Room 240. And a film screening:

10/8. WED. Nelson Mandela Auditorium. UNC-Chapel Hill. 7:00pm Rostros del Tiempo | Faces of Time. Charles D. Thompson / Mexico, USA / 2014 / 15 min. Spanish with English subtitles. These are the faces of ex-Braceros (or sometimes their widows who stand for them) who worked in U.S. fields, harvesting crops and providing food for American consumers between the years 1942-1964. They gather every Sundayin Ciudad Juárez to protest because they still have not received the retirement benefits they earned half a century ago.

Followed by: VIDA PROPIA. Sarah Garrahan / USA-Latino / 2014 / 52 min. Spanish with English subtitles. Vida Propia is an intimate portrait of Nora Méndez, a 43-year-old mother of three living in Durham, North Carolina. Nora works as a cook in a Latino-fusion restaurant; lately she has started her own food truck business. *Special event with presence of the director and participants of the films, Q&A to follow the screenings.

All Festival activities are FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

As in previous years, the Festival will take place in several venues. Richard White Auditorium, Duke University, East Campus. Durham, NC. 27705. Nelson Mandela Auditorium, FedEx Global Education Center, UNC-Chapel Hill. 301 Pittsboro St., Chapel Hill, NC. 27514. Carolina Theatre. 309 West Morgan Street, Durham, NC. 27701. Educational Resource Center- ERC Auditorium, Durham Technical Community College, Main Campus. Durham, NC. 27701. Farrison-Newton Communications Building Theatre, North Carolina Central University.  Durham, NC. 27707. Full Frame Theatre. American Tobacco Campus. 318. Blackwell St, Durham, NC. 27701.

Organized by The Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. This event is made possible through funding by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the US Department of Education.

Co-sponsored by the UNC Institute for the Study of the Americas, Duke Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Duke Screen/Society, Duke Center for Documentary Studies, UNC Romance Languages and Literatures, Duke Program in Latino/a Studies in the Global South, Duke-UNC Middle East Studies Center, the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke, PRAGDA, North Carolina Central University, Durham Technical Community College, El Centro Hispano, and the Carolina Theatre of Durham.

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Book Release: A History of Family Planning in Twentieth-Century Peru


Adding to the burgeoning study of medicine and science in Latin America, this important book offers a comprehensive historical perspective on the highly contentious issues of sexual and reproductive health in an important Andean nation. Raúl Necochea López approaches family planning as a historical phenomenon layered with medical, social, economic, and moral implications. At stake in this complex mix were new notions of individual autonomy, the future of gender relations, and national prosperity.

The implementation of Peru’s first family planning programs led to a rapid professionalization of fertility control. Complicating the evolution of associated medical services were the conflicting agendas of ordinary citizens, power brokers from governmental and military sectors, clergy, and international health groups. While family planning promised a greater degree of control over individuals’ intimate lives, as well as opportunities for economic improvement through the effective management of birth rates, the success of attempts to regulate fertility was far from assured. Today, Necochea López observes, although the quality of family planning resources in Peru has improved, services remain far from equitably available.

About the author

Raúl Necochea López is assistant professor of social medicine and adjunct assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

See the original article here.

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