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Presentations about Cuba begin Feb. 13

Tracing the Unexplored: A Vivid Journey through Cuba, a series of four presentations about Cuba, will begin Feb. 13 at WKU.

In its sixth year, the Tracing the Unexplored Series was born in the Department of Modern Languages and brings to Bowling Green and the WKU campus community important issues of the Hispanic world. This year’s series focuses on Cuba and is a collaboration of Modern Languages, the Office of International Programs, Gender & Women’s Studies, the Political Engagement Project, Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility, Film Studies, the Kentucky Institute for International Studies, and Student Activities.

The presentations include the following:

cuba flyerCuba in the Raw: A Story of Sugar: Dr. Richard Morris, who has taught Spanish at Middle Tennessee State University for 14 years, will discuss his documentary Cuba in the Raw: A Story of Sugar from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at Grise Hall Auditorium. Dr. Morris will answer questions about the documentary, his work in Cuba and study abroad opportunities in Cuba.

Dr. Morris has traveled widely in Latin America, but since 2000 has focused his attention mostly on Cuba. In 2000 he was involved in MTSU’s first Cuba program, and he has developed a dedicated annual summer program focusing on Cuban culture and Spanish language immersion. He has traveled to Cuba seven times and built significant professional and personal contacts both at the University of Havana and around Cuba. In 2013 Dr. Morris will visit Cuba twice, in May to research the Cuban legacy of American chocolate magnate Milton S. Hershey; and in July with students from the KIIS consortium to conduct a three-week study abroad program.

For information about the KIIS Cuba study abroad program, visit www.kiis.org or stop by Tate Page Hall, room 129.

La Maestra: The Cuban Literacy Campaign through the Eyes of a Teacher: Catherine Murphy, producer of the documentary, and Norma Guillard, one of the teachers who participated in the Literacy Campaign and is featured in the documentary, will show the film and lead a discussion at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at Gary Ransdell Hall Auditorium.

The documentary presents personal testimonies of the young women who taught literacy in rural communities across the island – and found themselves deeply transformed in the process — at the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. The high rate of literacy in Cuba is one of the proud and much touted accomplishments of the Cuban Revolution. Beginning half a century ago, in 1961, the literacy campaign mobilized more than 1 million Cubans as teachers or students. In that same year, 707,000 Cubans learned how to read or write. La Maestra tells the story of that inspiring campaign through the memories of the women who served as literacy teachers—the maestras themselves.

The filmmaker, Catherine Murphy, lived in Cuba in the 1990s and earned a master’s degree at the University of Havana. She is the founder and director of a multimedia project known as the Literacy Project, which focuses on gathering oral histories of volunteer teachers from the literacy campaign.

Documentary footage shows the energy and enthusiasm of the young women who traveled on trains into the small towns and countryside of Cuba to live among the people and teach them how to read and write. But the challenges they faced were extreme. These women often faced opposition from their families, and many left against their parents’ wishes. They lived with poor rural families, sleeping in hammocks at night. During the day they would work in the fields alongside the peasants, and in the few hours they had in the evening, they would prepare lessons and conduct classes.  The hardships and poverty they encountered were not always conducive to learning how to read and write. In a country where the urban and rural poor had long been denied access to education, literacy was empowerment.

The series concludes with two presentations March 5 at WKU’s Faculty House:

  • 11:10 a.m. — Film and Panel Discussion: Cuba: The Next Revolution, from the series Black in Latin America, produced by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates.
  • 2:20 p.m. — Presentation: Guerrilla Preservation: Ecclesiastical Archives in Cuba by Dr. Andrew McMichael, Associate Professor of History, Assistant Dean of Potter College, and Interim Head of Department of English. A reception follows.

For information about the Cuba presentations, contact Dr. Sonia Lenk, assistant professor in WKU’s Department of Modern Languages, at (270) 745-5906 or email sonia.lenk@wku.edu

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