Tuesday, January 28, 2014

La Vuelta Podcast: Energy Reform in Mexico, Latinos and HIV/AIDS in the United States

This month’s episode of La Vuelta Podcast begins with an examination of recent energy policy reforms in Mexico.  Last summer, President Enrique Peña Nieto introduced a series of proposals to end the monopoly of the state-owned PEMEX (Petróleos de Mexico) energy giant by allowing foreign investment in the country’s energy sector.  The move set off a series of high-profile protests by opponents of the Peña Nieto administration, accusing him of compromising the sovereignty of the Mexican state by attacking an institution born, in a celebrated nationalization of foreign oil interests, during the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas in the 1930s. Noel Maurer, an Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, who has written extensively on the Mexican oil industry, spoke with us about the history of oil and politics in Mexico and the impact that President Peña Nieto’s reforms might have on the Mexican energy sector.

Next, we turned to the complex issue of Latinos and HIV/AIDS infection in the United States.  Recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reveal that Latinos are disproportionately infected with HIV.  In a recent article, Erika L. Sánchez, a Chicago-based writer, examined some of the ways in which Latino cultural taboos regarding sex and homosexuality might be influencing the persistence of the disease in the Latino communities of the U.S.  Sánchez joined us to discuss some of the stories she discovered of Latinos infected with HIV/AIDS and the ways in which some Latino communities are responding to this crisis.

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Hostos at the Ateneo de Madrid

Eugenio María de Hostos, Woodcut, Lorenzo Homar, 1961
Source: Sala Eugenio María de Hostos. Una invitación para visitar la Biblioteca Nacional de Puerto Rico, Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 2009
Yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of Eugenio María de Hostos, one of the leading lights of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean during the 19th Century. (Tomorrow, the Puerto Rican government's offices will be closed in honor of Hostos’ birthday.)  A Puerto Rican by birth, Hostos was an American, in the broadest sense of that word, by choice.  He saw in the countries of the Antilles-especially Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic-islands sharing both cultural bonds and political challenges.  His life was dedicated to the independence of the islands from any foreign power, whether in Madrid or in Washington. 

One of Hostos’ clearest arguments in favor of Cuba and Puerto Rico’s independence from Spain was delivered in 1868 in the heart of Spanish intellectual life, El Ateneo de Madrid.  Only a few months earlier, Puerto Rico’s first significant attempt to achieve independence died in the coffee-producing hills near Lares.  Meanwhile, in Cuba, insurgents had started a long and costly war that would do little to resolve the island’s colonial status.  Hostos’ speech at the Ateneo is a pointed and elegant attack against Spanish colonialism and its impact on the peoples of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean.  Spain itself was convulsed by revolution in 1868, and it was Hostos who exposed the hypocrisy of Spaniards who preached liberalism at home but imposed colonialism abroad.

Thanks to the Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College/CUNY, Hostos’ speech at the Ateneo has been translated into English.  This is part of the college’s great work in preserving his legacy and making some of his work available to English-speakers.  The site is a great place to start to learn about this important figure in the history of the Americas and his life's work in favor of freedom.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Marina Ginestá, Spanish Civil War icon, dies.

The subject of one of the most iconic photographs of the Spanish Civil War has died.  Marina Ginestá, who was photographed by the German Hans Guttman Guster (later Juan Guzmán) in 1936, died in Paris today at the age of 94.  The photograph of a young and defiant Ginestá, taken as she stood guard atop the Hotel Colón in Barcelona at the onset of the Spanish Civil War, was one of many photographs taken by Guttman during his time in Spain as a member of the International Brigades.  Ginestá fled from Spain after the war and settled in the Dominican Republic.  By the mid-1940s, she had run afoul of the Trujillo regime and fled back to Europe.  Guttman too fled Spain at the collapse of the Spanish Republic.  Arriving in Mexico, he became one of the nation’s most important photographers producing a series of images of Mexican artists at work including, most notably, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.

Marina Ginestá,  Hans Guttman Giuster (later Juan Guzmán), Barcelona, 1936.  Image courtesy of Revista Ojos Rojos.
Frida Kahlo, Juan Guzmán, Mexico City, 1951.