Angela Stuesse

Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Global Studies

Angela Stuesse is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Global Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her award-winning book, Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South, based on six years of activist research engagement with poultry workers, explores how new Latin American migration into the rural U.S. South has impacted the region’s racial hierarchies and working communities’ abilities to organize for better wages and working conditions. Her more recent work sheds light on state and local immigrant policing and the experiences of undocumented young people in higher education in the United States. Stuesse earned her MA in Latin American Studies and PhD in Anthropology from the University of Texas-Austin, and she has held academic appointments at UCLA, The Ohio State University, and the University of South Florida. At UNC she serves on the advisory boards of the Latina/o Studies Program and the Graduate Certificate in Participatory Research.

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ISA Director Louis Pérez on WCHL 97.9 FM, Who’s Talking show


Click to listen.

Louis Pérez, J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of History at UNC Chapel Hill and Director, Institute for the Study of the Americas, gives background about Cuban history and politics to help us understand today’s events. The host asks about the new travel rules as it relates to the People to People framework,  the pros and cons of the new rules, and more. Listen now!

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Associate Director Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz wins University Award for the Advancement of Women


Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz

Associate Director Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz received the 2017 University Award for the Advancement of Women, March 7, 2017, at the Anne Queen Faculty Commons in the Campus Y. This award is given by the office of Chancellor Folt and is a way to recognize individuals for their contributions on behalf of women at the University.

Riefkohl Muñiz was recognized for her mentorship of young professionals, leadership, and advocacy with policies and cultures affecting women faculty, staff, and students in numerous ways. She has been a central leader in a collaborative effort among area study centers to expand global education in North Carolina and Latin American Studies nationally through her work at the Institute for the Study of the Americas and the national Consortium in Latin American Studies Programs.

One of her many accomplishments included mentoring women staff.

“Beatriz elevates the status of women by giving women credit for their labor, ideas, and innovation,”Emily Chávez, Outreach Director of the Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University said.

In addition to her mentorship, Riefkohl Muñiz’s leadership was recognized across departments.

“Beatriz’ leadership provides a clear example of what UNC should aspire to: the integration of respect and support for women into all facets of institutional culture and policy,” Hannah Gill, Assistant Director, Institute for the Study of the Americas said.

And Riefkohl Muñiz isn’t stopping.

“This award gives us an opportunity to think about all the great contributions women make to Carolina on a daily basis,” Riefohl Muñiz said. “Recognizing women’s achievements helps us to develop new opportunities that take into consideration women’s voices, aspirations, and work.”

Congratulations, Beatriz! We look forward to the great things you will continue to do!

About the award

A committee of faculty, staff, and students was given the task of reviewing the many nominations received to select one faculty member, one staff member, on graduate/professional student, and one undergraduate student to receive the award. The committee was given the following criteria to us in selecting award recipients:

  • Mentored and supported women students, staff, faculty, and/or
  • Elevated the status of women on campus;
  • Helped to improve campus policies affecting women;
  • Promoted and advanced the recruitment, retention, and upward mobility of women;
  • Participated in and assisted in the establishment of professional development opportunities for women; or
  • Participated in and assisted in the establishment of career or academic mentoring for women.
  • Both women and men who have contributed in one or more of the above ways were eligible.
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Tanya Shields

Tanya Shields is an associate professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, a past fellow of the Carolina Women’s Center Faculty Fellowship, and a recipient of the Institute of Arts and Humanities’ Academic Leadership Fellowship. Dr. Shields’s first book, Bodies and Bones: Feminist Rehearsal and Imagining Caribbean Belonging (2014) examines the ways in which rehearsing historical events and archetypal characters shapes belonging to the region. Feminist rehearsal helps us explore the ways in which people continually negotiate terms of membership and how these interactions reveal structures of resistance, oppression, and inequality.

Dr. Shields is also editor of The Legacy of Eric Williams: Into the Postcolonial Moment (2015), which examines the contributions of Eric Williams, the first prime minister of independent Trinidad and Tobago, as an individual, a leader, and a scholar. Dr. Shields is currently at work on her second monograph, “Gendered Labor: Race, Place and Power on Female-Owned Plantations,” a comparative study of women who owned plantations in the Caribbean and U.S. South. Additionally, her work is published in Cultural Dynamics, Women, Gender, and Families of Color, Identities as well as in The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Constructing Vernacular Culture in the Trans-Caribbean. In 2016, along with Professor Kathy Perkins, Dr. Shields co-convened the National Endowment for the Arts funded conference, “Telling Our Stories of Home: Exploring and Celebrating Changing African and African Diaspora Communities.”

Dr. Shields teaches classes on Caribbean women, the arts of activism, growing up girl globally, and the continuing influence of plantation economics and politics. She is the immediate past president and current board member of the Association for Women Faculty and Professionals (AWFP) and a board member for the Maryland-based Carivision Community Theater, which seeks to use theater as space of exchange between Caribbean and U.S. theater audiences. Dr. Shields is also dramaturge for the Houston-based Process Theater’s “Plantation Remix” project. Her class, “Rahtid Rebel Women: An Introduction to the Caribbean,” was listed as number 7 on Elle Magazine’s “63 College Classes that Give Us Hope for the Next Generation.” Dr. Shields earned her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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Hannah Palmer

Palmer2Hannah Palmer received her B.A. in English and Spanish from Samford University in 2009 and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at UNC Chapel Hill. She has been actively engaged with ISA initiatives since her arrival in North Carolina in 2011, participating in working groups and conferences, as well as completing all three levels of the Yucatec Maya Summer Institute. She currently oversees the Latin American Film Library, a collection of over 600 films treating subjects of interest to Latin America, the Caribbean, and the U.S.Latino/a population.

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‘Castro Was a Living Reminder of the Limits of American Power’–FAIR Media Watch interviews Louis Pérez about the influence of Fidel Castro

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Janine Jackson: Fidel Castro, who died November 25 at age 90, will be remembered as someone whose work changed, not just Cuba, but the wider world. With US media ringing with denunciation—with some left over to denunciate those who aren’t denunciating enough—there’s little oxygen left for discussion of that work, and what it meant and still means.

We’re joined now for some context on Castro and Cuba by Louis Pérez. He’s professor of history at the University of North Carolina and editor of Cuban Journal, and author of, among other titles, Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution. He joins us now by phone from North Carolina. Welcome to CounterSpin, Louis Pérez.

Louis Perez: Good day.

JJ: To hear the TV talkers tell it, Fidel Castro was not just an evil monster, he was a sort of Svengali who somehow tricked millions of people into supporting his project. There’s a sense that the only reason not to despise him is delusion. And that seems to disavow any agency on the part of the Cuban people, among other things; they’re seen as engaging in some sort of idol worship. I have heard you say that Fidel resonates because the Cuban Revolution resonates. Can you give us some context for why that’s the case?

LP: The most extraordinary facet of the coverage of the last five, six days in this country has been the utter lack of self-reflection and ignorance of context, and I think you’ve used the word “context” already twice in your introductory comments. It is so easy and so facile to focus on one man—Americans love the Great Man thesis—one man to whom one can attribute everything that torments one. It is so easy to identify the outcomes in Cuba, the outcomes in Central America, the outcomes in Africa to one guy.

That liberates anybody from exploring context, from exploring process, from exploring history, from understanding how this phenomenon that Fidel Castro represents unfolds. And so what we have here is just a utterly one-dimensional assessment of the past and the present, and Fidel Castro was that evil person to whom one can attribute everything that one doesn’t like about the world.

JJ: When Cubans talk about it, of course, there’s a completely different approach to it, and a completely different kind of reckoning with it. But, as you say, US readers have gotten, first of all, very little information, period, but then also the information has been kind of cartoonish. So what can you tell—and also for younger folks who don’t know—what was the Cuban Revolution, what did it signify, what did it change?

LP: The Cuban Revolution comes out of a history, comes out of a struggle by a people that has its antecedents in the middle of the 19th century, and it represents successive generations of Cubans who aspire—however unlikely it would appear, coming from a little country, a small population—the Cuban historical purpose for 150 years has been given to the pursuit of self-determination and national sovereignty. If the Cuban Revolution is about anything, it’s about self-determination and national sovereignty. And so that’s an idea that goes back to the 1850s, and it’s articulated by Jose Martí in the 1880s and 1890s, and it continues to circulate, and it becomes a politics in Cuba with the inauguration of a republic in 1902.

So Fidel Castro comes out of that history. He is formed by that sensibility. And so what the Cuban Revolution represents in January 1959—and certainly this is a point that Fidel Castro makes—it is the culmination of a process. It is, finally, a people who have achieved self-determination and national sovereignty, and the obstacle in the 19th century was Spain, and the obstacle in the 20th century was the United States. So the Revolution comes with this purpose of affirming Cuba for Cubans, and finally the prospects of agency, of seizing hold of those forces that govern one’s life, and that means, inevitably, to reduce the presence and the influence of the United States in Cuba.

And that’s the one condition that since the 19th century the United States was not willing to acquiesce to Cuba. From Jefferson until George W. Bush and perhaps even Obama, the idea of Cuban national sovereignty and self-determination has been and it continues to be an anathema.

JJ: As in other places as well, but I think it’s such an important understanding of the relationship. Reuters in their write-up said that Castro “built a Communist state on the doorstep of the United States,” which I find funny, as though the proximity of this tiny island were an affront or a provocation to the United States.
It reminds me of the comic and activist Professor Irwin Corey, who was a big supporter of the Revolution. He told my colleague Steve Rendall that he had complained to Castro, “For 40 years, you’ve refused to remove your country from around our military base.”

LP: [laughs] It is, of course, the relationship with the world superpower, it is that sovereignty that drew the admiration of people, of oppressed people, the world over, that defiance. And how strange to present it still today as a threat to the United States.

LP: I think the word you use is correct, the affront. Fidel Castro was a breathing, living reminder of the limits of American power. How is it possible that the United States could not do something about this guy? And successive generations of American political leaders, 11 presidential administrations, more or less all take power saying they’re going to do something about Fidel Castro. The presidential terms come and go and he’s still there. And he survives the collapse of the Soviet Union. And the Cuban Revolution continues, admittedly limping, but still continues to survive.

So I think it’s that defiance that just galled Americans, the inability to will the world according to their wishes in a place that they had always willed the world. There’s something profoundly psychological. Fidel Castro becomes a highly personal issue to Americans, and the multiple attempts to assassinate — can’t make it any more personal than that.

JJ: What you’re talking about, the importance of sovereignty, that, as I understand it, became an overweening focus on sovereignty, and then the security state that is understandably lamented. Now, you see that as a kind of cautionary tale.

LP: That’s exactly how I see it. I see the Cuban developments. Does the system resort to repressive techniques? Absolutely. Has it spawned an elaborate surveillance and intelligence system? Absolutely. It has done all these things.

I think it’s important to bear in mind that this has a context. This was a state, a government, administration, rulers, who were confronted with the most powerful country in the world, that had as a single overriding determination, regime change.

And when the Cubans invoke national security, then all bets are off, as we are learning in this country. When one invokes national security, then civil liberties, constitutional freedoms, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of thought—that space begins to contract, get smaller and smaller.
And, again, when I said earlier the lack of self-reflection, I think anybody has to go to the Alien and Sedition Laws at the end of the 18th century, after the American Revolution, when the Americans felt threatened by the French, and they passed the sedition laws. And anybody who published or said anything against the United States government would be subject to imprisonment. And how about the Japanese-Americans who the United States, feeling threatened by Japan, rounded up, tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans, and put them in camps.

So it’s that lack of context, it’s that lack of appreciation. It’s like people say, wow, the economy’s in shambles in Cuba. It is. But to what degree is the shambles of the Cuban economy the outcome of a punitive embargo that had as its direct purpose to make the Cuban economy one of shambles? So it is this loop of opinion that feeds on itself, and we just can’t seem to break or get out of it.

JJ: Well, let me just ask you, finally: We had started to see, it was being called a “thaw,” we saw some diplomatic relations being established earlier this year with Cuba. Now, you know, things are different. What do you imagine happening now, in terms of the relationship between the United States and Cuba, and what do you think would serve Cubans?

LP: If the new, incoming administration presumes to act on the utterances of this past weekend, then I think anybody, any persons of good will, any persons who derive comfort at the process of normalization of the last two years, cannot but despair and feel very anxious. The words of the president-elect, saying that he wants to withdraw the “concessions,” quote unquote, unless the Cubans, among other things, open up their economy for market reform, free political prisoners, hold elections, allow political parties—we are now going to be plunged back to the worst days of…I don’t even know what the comparison would be, the Reagan years, the George W. Bush years.

Because these are the demands that the Cubans have resisted for 55 years. Because this is, again, a throwback to the curtailment and the challenge to the Cuban insistence upon self-determination and national sovereignty. So if these folks who are coming in in January proceed to act on those politics, then we’re in for some very, very difficult times in US/Cuban relations.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Louis Pérez, professor of history at the University of North Carolina and author of, among other books, Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution. Louis Pérez, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

LP: You’re very welcome.

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“The man Americans loved to hate,” director Louis A. Pérez Jr. talks to CNN about Castro’s relationship with the US

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Image of Fidel Castro in Santiago de Cuba

Fidel Castro Ruz, the political personality, has died. Fidel Castro, the historical persona, has been born. He passes from the present into the past, to serve as an enduring historical subject of debate and dispute, about whom dispassion will be impossible for years to come. Fidel Castro was not a man about whom one is likely to be neutral.

Fidel is a metaphor. He is a Rorschach blot upon which to project fears or hopes. A prism in which the spectrum of colors refracted out has to do with light that went in. He is a point of view, loaded with ideological purport and political meaning. A David who survived Goliath. A symbol of Third World intransigence against First World domination.

But it is also possible to discuss the historical “essences” of Fidel Castro. He emerged out of a history shaped by a century of Cuban national frustration, heir to a legacy of unfulfilled hopes for national sovereignty and self-determination, aspirations that put Cuba on a collision course with the United States. The collision of the early 1960s served to fix the trajectory of the 50 years of ruptured relations that followed.

There was something deeply personal about the Cuba-U.S. estrangement. Fidel Castro offended American sensibilities. The sheer effrontery of Castro’s challenge to the United States was breathtaking: defiant, strident, often virulent denunciations of the United States, hours at a time, day after day, stretching into weeks and months, and years.

Castro’s invective was more than adequately reciprocated by American vilification. Fidel Castro was held personally responsible for almost all the challenges the United States faced in Central and South America, in the Caribbean, in Africa. Castro was transformed simultaneously into an anathema and phantasma, unscrupulous and perhaps unbalanced, possessed by demons and given to evil doings.

He defied years of US efforts at regime change and his very defiance transformed him into something of an enduring national obsession. Castro occupied a place of almost singular distinction in that netherworld to which the United States banished its demons.

He was the man Americans loved to hate; political conflict personalized; decades of frustration over the US’ unsuccessful attempts to force Cuba to bend its will — all this vented on one man. Certainly, scores of assassination plots against the life of Castro could not have made American wrath any more personal.

And, yes: the missiles of October 1962. Castro would never be forgiven. It is highly unlikely that any American administration could have embarked on a US-Cuba rapprochement with Fidel Castro in power.

His death leaves something of a void in Cuba. Not in the form of a power vacuum, of course, but as the absence of a voice and the loss of a presence.

Even old, feeble and in failing health, beset with infirmities, and perhaps with traces of senility, Fidel continued to discharge the role of symbol. He was suspicious of President Barack Obama’s rapprochement initiatives. He no doubt would have been alarmed by the campaign rhetoric of President-elect Donald Trump.
The Republican Party platform inaugurated the 2016 electoral campaign prepared to welcome “Cuba back into our hemispheric family after their corrupt rulers are forced from power and brought to account for their crimes against humanity.” The President-elect vowed to roll back all “concessions” made to Cuba unless the “regime meets our demands,” demands that include “religious and political freedom for the Cuban people.”
At this stage of US-Cuba relations, the very proposition of American “demands” on Cuba bode ill for continued normalization. A people who have endured 60 years of privation over the course of 11 presidential administrations in defense of national sovereignty and self-determination will not likely acquiesce to demands of a 12th administration.
In passing from the present to the past, Fidel will henceforth speak from the grave.
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ISA Director Lou Pérez: “Why did Fidel Castro enfuriate the U.S. so much?”

ISA Director Lou Pérez is featured in the daily JStor. See the original article here

By Matthew Wills
Nov. 30, 2016

Fidel Castro is dead. The Cuban revolutionary, Prime Minister, and President, who dominated his small island nation’s history for half a century, was 90.

Improbably emerging from the Cuban highlands after a successful guerilla war against the Batista dictatorship, Castro went on to survive the United States’ assassination attempts, sponsored invasion, terrorism, and decades of embargo. He survived, too, the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had been subsidizing practically the entire Cuban economy.

Castro was no democrat, but then neither were the right-wing dictators the U.S. supported in Latin America and elsewhere around the world. Castro was different, though: he really got under the U.S.’s skin, wounding American national pride and humiliating and embarrassing the great colossus to the north.

Historian Louis A. Pérez Jr. looks into the “fear and loathing of Fidel Castro” in the U.S. Anti-communism and the Cuban-American exile community went a long way in making America anti-Castro, but there was an even deeper animosity. Writes Pérez, “That Castro embraced communism was insufficient to guarantee US ire. That it happened in a country where the United States had historically imposed its will and gotten its way deepened the insult of the injury.”

Before the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Americans thought of Cuba as their property; indeed, before the Civil War, Southerners had wanted to take it for the expansion of American slavery. After Cuba’s independence from Spain in 1898, the U.S. repeatedly intervened diplomatically, economically, and militarily on the island. The U.S. military was there from 1896-1902, 1906-1909, and 1917-1922; the 45 square miles of the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay have been continuously occupied since 1903.

By the mid 20th century, Cuba was “a background for honeymoons, a playground for vacations, a brothel, a casino, a cabaret, a good liberty port—a place for flings, sprees and binges,” writes Pérez. It was not a country to be taken seriously by Americans. Castro changed all that, vanquishing the American-allied local oligarchs and expelling the American gangsters who ran the casinos and brothels. He also nationalized $1.5 billion worth of American interests in the sugar, cattle, oil refining, mining, railroads, and banking sectors on the island.

Pérez goes so far as to describe America’s loss of Cuba as a “trauma.” Shocked and perplexed Americans, perhaps not unlike parents who watch a quiet child turn on them, were blindsided by Castro’s anti-Americanism and his turn to communism and the Soviets. Soviet missiles on the island in 1962, 90 miles from the Florida, had a “devastating psychological impact on the American people” wrote Dean Rusk, JFK’s Secretary of State.

The Cuban Missile Crisis ended with the Soviets removing their missiles from the island. As part of the deal, the U.S. removed its missiles from Turkey, on the USSR’s doorstep. And the U.S. renounced the use of direct military force in Cuba. Castro got to thumb his nose at the U.S. for four more decades, a constant reminder, as Pérez says, “of the limits of US power.”

Will Castro’s death mark a new era of relations with Cuba, now that what Thomas Friedman, quoted by Pérez, called the “blind hunger for revenge against Mr. Castro,” has no more target?


Fear and Loathing of Fidel Castro: Sources of US Policy toward Cuba

Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 34, No. 2 (May, 2002), pp. 227-254
Cambridge University Press

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Joanna Shuett, Department Manager

Department Manager

IMG_1994Joanna Shuett is from Melbourne, Florida, and graduated from Florida Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, where she also worked a little over a decade in administrative rolls. She moved to the Chapel Hill area in 2006, and after working many years in the operations and finance areas within the manufacturing industry, she realized her passion was working in academia and wanted to join UNC to provide support to those making improvements both locally and globally through research and education. During her travels to Costa Rica and Jamaica, she quickly developed an appreciation for Latin America, which drew her to joining the ISA department in 2017. As the Department Manager, she coordinates administrative, financial, and personnel duties, and is especially enthusiastic about supporting the faculty, staff and students in their pursuit of knowledge of the Latin American experience in the Western Hemisphere.

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Laura Villa Torres, Bilingual Outreach Assistant New Roots Nuevas Raíces


Bilingual Outreach Assistant, New Roots Nuevas Raíces

Laura Villa Torres currently works at the Latino Migration Project as an Outreach Assistant. Laura holds a Master’s degree in Science in Public Health and is a Ph.D. candidate, both in the Department of Health Behavior at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She studied her bachelor’s degree in Sociology at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitant – Xochimilco, in Mexico City, and her current research focuses on migration, health and intersectionality.

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