Despite complications, the International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association takes a step towards democratization.
For many years academic study of Latin America in the US has rested on a form of political leftism that brushes aside anyone who won’t comply with the Cuban revolution’s orders. As a result, many intellectuals on the Island have been excluded from Latin American professorships just for having lived in exile after suffering repression in our country.
The Congresses of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) have by no means been free of ideological apartheid. Not only does the Cuban delegation include only those names that have been authorized by the Cuban government, but their speeches, which are officially approved by a national board, never contradict the propagandist revolutionary rhetoric.
However, the XXXI International Congress of the LASA in Washington DC (May 29 – June 1, 2013) was an exception to these rules. Various Cuban human rights activists, now traveling the world following the scrapping of Exit Permits, registered for the conference online as a hash-tag spread through social networks: #OccupyLASA.
Perhaps in response, some pro-government professors from the University of Havana (Juan Triana, Jorge Mario Sánchez, and Carlos Alzugaray, together with North American colleagues such as John Kirk of Dalhousie University, plus Cuban diplomats and security personnel from the Consulate) engaged in an “act of protest” against researcher Ted Henken of Baruch College (New York), simply because Henken had asked about the economist Omar Everleny Pérez, who had been dismissed from his position in Cuba without explanation and prohibited from traveling despite being part of the LASA program.
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