Cuban Exceptionalism: Reflections on Latin American History

The Shoe Vendor, Cuba,
ca. 1895-1920.
photo courtesy
frank and frances carpenter collection

Dreaming in Cuban

Saturday, December 4, 2009

University of Southern Maine, Portland

$50 fee includes a copy
of Dreaming in Cuban,
lunch, and coffee breaks.

CEUs will be available
for participants who are teachers.

Click here or call 207-773-5051
for more details and to register.

In the half-century since Fidel Castro’s Revolution, the U.S. has staunchly upheld trade and immigration restrictions against Cuba, but signs of change are surfacing as the aging leader withdraws ever further from the public eye. In April of this year, President Barack Obama opened lines of communication by allowing Cuban-Americans to visit and send money to the island as often as they wish. If relations between the two countries are further normalized, how will the Cuban-American community react? How will the changes affect the island’s economy and people?

To provide context for these timely questions, the Maine Humanities Council will host “Cuban Exceptionalism: Reflections on Latin American History,” a day-long program for teachers and the general public. As its title suggests, the content of this program will by no means be limited to Cuba. Latin America is an enormously complex region that is impossible to understand through a single country; Cuba, however, will serve as a case study, as scholars discuss the ways in which it is and is not typical of the larger region. Cristina García’s Dreaming in Cuban, which offers a literary perspective on the complexities and contradictions of Cuba in the 1970s, will serve as the text. Lectures and small-group sessions will address the novel, as well as the colonial history of Cuba, the Revolution, and the post-revolution era. Two Maine scholars are helping the Council plan and present the program and are profiled below.

Join us for this experience, to both deepen and broaden your understanding of Latin America.

Fulgencio Batista, the Cuban Army Sergeant who rose to the heights of a Caribbean dictator, arrived in Washington, D.C., seeing the Capitol for the first time, Nov. 10, 1938. This was the first time the Cuban dictator set foot outside his native land in thirty-seven years; Gen. Malin Craig, the Chief of Staff is shown with him as they pass the Capitol.
photo courtesy library of congress

Allen Wells is the Roger Howell, Jr. Professor of History at Bowdoin College. Originally from New York, he received his M.A. and Ph.D. in history at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and his B.A. in History and Latin American Studies from the State University of New York at Binghamton. Wells’ scholarship has focused on modern Mexican history, especially Yucatán. His most recent book is Tropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR and the Jews of Sosúa (Duke University Press, 2009). He offers a range of courses in colonial and modern Latin American history, including a seminar on the Cuban Revolution, and has done research on the Cuban sugar economy during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 2000, he traveled to the island with a group of Maine educators during the midst of the Elian González crisis. They were there when Attorney General Janet Reno ordered U.S. marshals to storm the home of Elian’s relatives in Miami.

David Carey, Jr. is an associate professor of History and Women’s Studies at the University of Southern Maine. He was the recipient of the 2003 University of Southern Maine Faculty Award for Excellence in Scholarship and is the 2009–2010 USM Trustee Professor. He holds a Ph.D. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University. His publications include Ojer taq tzijob’äl kichin ri Kaqchikela’ Winaqi’ (A History of the Kaqchikel People) (Q’anilsa Ediciones, 2004) and Engendering Mayan History: Mayan Women as Agents and Conduits of the Past, 1875–1970 (Routledge, 2006). Though his research interests center around ethnicity, gender, and oral histories in Guatemala, he also has been exploring the connections (both historical and current) between Latin America and Maine. He recently coedited, with Robert Atkinson, Latino Voices in New England (State University of New York Press, 2009), and he has researched and written about the nineteenth-century connections between Portland and Cuba.