Author Archives: Juan Carlos Castillo

Ulises’ Odyssey, the Odyssey of Looking Back

Post by Juan Carlos Castillo, CLACS MA Candidate

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Forced by his governor’s megalomania, Ulysses had to abandon his land to fight the city of Troy. Thereafter, he spent 10 horrible years confronting the many monsters and storms that opposed his way home. But this was Homer’s story.

Ulises –not Ulysses– passed through something similar, through an 30-year odyssey away from home. His biggest monster: the lack of affection from his family. His strongest storm: his memories of a broken past, or perhaps, his notion of a broken Chile.

Ulises’ Odyssey is the story about the rupture of the Chilean society exemplified through the rift that happened in Ulises’ family. The story is narrated by Lorena Manríquez, who is Ulises’ niece and also the director of this feature documentary. On October 16, the film’s New York premiere was held as part of the Fall 2015 CineCLACS screenings’ roster, to a packed house of over 130 attendees at the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center at NYU.  The event was followed by a conversation with the film’s directors Manríquez, and Miguel Picker.

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Meet Djatawo, the First Haitian Superhero

Post by Juan Carlos Castillo, CLACS MA Candidate

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The evening of October 27th, CLACS hosted the event “A Conversation with the Creator of Djatawo, Haiti’s First Comic Book Superhero,” with Anthony Louis-Jeune (Aton). This event was co-sponsored with the Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York. The intimate conversation with Aton held at CLACS room 404, which included live-sketching by the artist, was attended by a diverse group of 23 people which included Kreyol students, comic book fans, and members of the Haitian community. 

It took a whole night to shave his body completely. His eyelashes were the only hair he didn’t remove. And there he was, inside of a pyramid made of wood, tranquil and meditating before his performance. He then came out, silently and peacefully, holding a bronze Egyptian sun disc. He walked through the room, approaching all those present and gave each of them tiny golden hands that were embedded in the medallion. After that, the performance was over.

This was Anthony Louis-Jeune, whom back then was a visual arts senior undergrad student at the Altos de Chavón School of Design, introducing the faculty and fellow students  present to the first Haitian superhero, Djatawo.

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Ada Ferrer’s Book Wins Prestigious Prize

Ada Ferrer's book, Freedom's Mirror, won three awards from the American Historical Association.

Ada Ferrer’s book, Freedom’s Mirror, has already won four prestigious awards.

Ada Ferrer, professor of history and Latin American and Caribbean studies at New York University, has been selected as the winner of the 2015 Frederick Douglass Book Prize for her book “Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution” (Cambridge University Press).

The Douglass Prize was created jointly by Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. It is awarded annually by the Gilder Lehrman Center for the best book written in English on slavery or abolition. The $25,000 prize will be presented to Ferrer at a reception sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute in New York City on February 4, 2016.

In addition to Ferrer, the other finalists for the prize were Ezra Greenspan for “William Wells Brown: An African American Life” (W. W. Norton), and Michael Guasco for “Slaves and Englishmen: Human Bondage in the Early Modern Atlantic World” (University of Pennsylvania Press).

This year’s finalists were selected from a field of more than 80 books by a jury of scholars that included Douglas Egerton (chair) of Le Moyne College, Rosanne Adderley of Tulane University, and James Sweet  of the University of Wisconsin. The winners were selected by a review committee of representatives from the Gilder Lehrman Center, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Yale.

“Freedom’s Mirror” offers “a fresh perspective and links these two nations together in a complex web, in which sugar slavery declined in Haiti just as it rose in Cuba,” commented the jury. “Ferrer’s research is most impressive; she fills her pages with proslavery Cuban generals, African slaves in both colonies, refugee ‘French Negroes,’ and Haitian leaders who hoped to weaken slavery on the islands that surrounded them. ‘Freedom’s Mirror’ will force even specialists to reconsider this era.” The jury also praised Ferrer’s “rendering of the complex politics in a beautifully written and understandable way that will be readily followed by readers with minimal knowledge of 19th-century Cuba, Haiti, and the Spanish Caribbean.”

This Ferrer’s book has already been awarded with other prestigious prizes. For instance it won the Friedrich Katz Prize in Latin American and Caribbean History, the Wesley-Logan Prize in African Diaspora History, and the James A. Rawley Prize for the History of the Atlantic Worlds before the 20th Century.

The Frederick Douglass Book Prize was established in 1999 to stimulate scholarship in the field of slavery and abolition by honoring outstanding books on the subject. The award is named for Frederick Douglass (1818–1895), the slave who escaped bondage to emerge as one of the great American abolitionists, reformers, writers, and orators of the 19th century.


*Re-blogged from news.yale.edu. See original post here.

#CubAngola40: Rethinking the 1975 Afro-Cuban War

Poster of President Agostinho Neto and Fidel Castro after Angolan independence celebration.

Poster of President Agostinho Neto and Fidel Castro after Angolan independence celebration.

In November of 1975 the Cuban government made a major military intervention in Angola’s independence process. Forty years later we gather to commemorate this historical moment and its consequences with #CubAngola40  – a daylong symposium at New York University.

This event will be held at the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center on Friday, November 6th, and will elapse from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

The conference will have the participation of  Piero Gleijeses, Linda Heywood, Christabelle Peters, Adriano Mixinge, Tony Pinelli and Ned Subletteto to remember and reconsider the event, to illuminate its political and cultural consequences and rethink the relevance of this important chapter of Global South history.

What happened in November of 1975?

Forty years ago, the Cuban government launched Operation Carlota, a large-scale military intervention in Angola while this African country was on the eve of its independence from Portugal. The Cuban military victory over the forces supported by the United States and South Africa represented an explosive chapter  of the Cold War and of the African decolonization. The consequences were immediate and long-lasting, since the resulting defeat of South African troops contributed  to the end of the white-supremacist regime of Apartheid. In that context, the intervention of a small Latin American country into the two main geopolitical struggles of the time was not only unique, it represented an audacious South-to-South cooperation.

Nonetheless, this important historical fact still underrepresented.  A great deal of historical and cultural material remains open to exploration, discussion, and scholarship.  Hence, #CubAngola40  begins to redress the scant attention this event has received and will strive to answer many pertinent and suspended questions:

What did the internationalism behind this event mean,or what could it have meant to today’s racial politics of the African diaspora and to transnational solidarity?

What political role did the Bantu-based cultures shared by both countries since early slave trade bring to bear in the Angola-Cuba context?

In light of recent changes in US-Cuba relations, can we expect new narratives, revelations, or perspectives regarding the intervention?

Stay tuned for more information, programs and biographies that are coming. Also follow this link to RSVP.

This week, Afro-Cuban topics are on the spotlight

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On Monday, October 12, the CLACS Caribbean Initiative hosted María del Carmen Barcia and Oilda Hevia Lanier from Casa de Altos Estudios Fernando Ortiz at University of Havana, who presented the latest research that have been conducted on Cuba and the illegal slave trade to a gathering of 15 guests which made for an intimate discussion.

Barcia is a well-known Cuban history professor that has been awarded with the prestigious prizes, Juan Marinello and Casa Award. Her studies emphasize in elites and social power relations. From 1982 – 2002 she was member of Scientific Council of the Cuba’s National Archive.

Meanwhile, Hevia Lanier is another Cuban historian that specializes in African Descendents in Cuba and in the Caribbean. She has been recognized on a myriad of occasions during the Wemilere African Roots Festivals.

This event was held  in room 404 of the King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center (KJCC).

Next Thursday, October 15 at 6:30 p.m., a colloquium will be held on the crucial role of books in the advancement of Black advocacy movements throughout the Americas. This event will take place on the fourth floor of 20 Cooper Square and will be led by the Afro Cuban author, bibliographer, and activist Tomás Fernández Robaina.

Fernández Rabaína, is both researcher at the Havana’s National Library and professor at University of Havana. He publishes mostly about Afro-Cuban issues. One of his most prominent books is The Blacks in Cuba 1902-1958: Notes on the history of the struggle against racial discrimination.

He has an extensive background in working for initiatives devoted to anti-racist activities. For instance, the Cuban National Committee on Slave Routes and Cofradía de la Negritud are two of the organizations to which he has been part of.

This free event is co-sponsored by CLACS, the AfroLatin@ Forum, Social and Cultural Analysis, and Ford Foundation.

Finally, to top it all, during Friday, October 16 we will host Heriberto Feraudy Espino, president of the Cuban’s government anti-racism agency –The José Antonio Aponte Commission.

Feraudy Espino will join us at 12:30 p.m. to present on the current racial problems in Cuba. This event will be held in room 404 of KJCC at 53 Washington Square South.

In his many years of experience, Feraudy Espino, has involved himself in teaching at University of Havana and writing both: history and Cuban society academic papers, and fictional literary pieces.

He has also been the director of the Africa and Middle East división at the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples.

This event will be held in Spanish.

CLACS faculty members excelled at the AHA book awards

Ada Ferrer and Greg Grandin were announced to be two of the American Historical Association (AHA) awards recipients for history books published in 2014.

Greg Grandin, CLACS affiliated faculty, won the Albert J. Beveridge Award for his book The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World.  This award is for the best book on the History of the US, Latin America, or Canada.

While Ada Ferrer’s book, Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution, has won the Friedrich Katz Prize in Latin American and Caribbean History, the Wesley-Logan Prize in African Diaspora History, and the James A. Rawley Prize for the History of the Atlantic Worlds before the 20th Century.

Ada Ferrer’s book, Freedom’s Mirror, won three awards from the American Historical Association. While Greg Grandin is co-winner of the Albert J. Beveridge Award for his book The Empire of Necessity.

Moreover, Fred Cooper, member of the NYU History Department’s faculty, won both the George Louis Beer Prize in European International History since 1895, and the Martin A. Klein Prize in African History. These recognitions were awarded for his book Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945-1960.

The Cinema of Venezuela 1995-2015: a screening and conversation about Venezuelan films.

Next Monday, October 5th is about Venezuelan films. At 6:00 p.m.  the King Juan Carlos Center’s auditorium will screen four short independent films (Nostalgia; La mula muerta, Colmillo, I Want to Shine) that address the everyday life, dreams, and stories of the people of the South American country. The event hopes to give an insight about the new routes and styles that are being taken by the Venezuelan film industry. At the end of the screening there will be a conversation with Haydeé Chavero González, Chair at the Cinema and Communications Department in Universidad Central de Venezuela.

The following are the four shorts that are going to be screened along with their descriptions and trailers.

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