Memories of an Academic Event in Peru (LASA 2017)

Stopping over in Panama and our arrival in Lima

Luis Rondon Paz

HAVANA TIMES — Taking part in the International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association “LASA” has been a great achievement in my life for many reasons, as I was one of the few undergraduate students from Cuba, who were among the over 4,000 academics from the Americas, the Caribbean and other places in the world.

When my research colleague Yasmin and I found out that our paper on the analysis and use of social networks as an essential tool to promote the International Book Fair in Cuba, had been accepted for the congress that would take place in Lima, Peru, this year, we mobilized so that members of the roundtable presentation that we had organized could go and we needed to sort out the following: 1 – return trip plane tickets, 2 – accommodation and food for those who didn’t get a study grant but their papers were accepted. Unfortunately, in this situation, we found several speakers for the roundtable, so we had to turn to different sources of funding so that we could take part in LASA.

It was possible for the majority of us to travel this time. Of the seven members of the “Self-organization practices in the Latin American context: strengths and weaknesses,” and so on April 28th, five of us boarded a Copa airline plane heading towards Panama and a few hours later, we continued our journey in another plane this time heading towards Lima, Peru.

The journey to Panama only lasted two hours and a few minutes, it was comfortable, and we had a spectacular view of the ocean and clouds which were separated by over 8000 feet. I must admit that my journey to Europe last year was very different, mainly because I had traveled through the evening and night and hadn’t been able to see anything.

When we landed in Panama airport, I could admire its greatness and discover that prices in its stores were extremely expensive. Some friends had told me that the Internet at airports was free, but it turns out like they said, in the past “it was free.” Luckily, my researcher instinct helped me find a cafe that had quite a good connection, but in order to connect I needed to spend at least 5 USD. My only consolation is that the view was refreshing and the Internet was a lot faster than the connection we have at home in Cuba.

As a matter of fact, inside the airport, I could have set up a phone line which was being sold for 30 USD and had Internet access and calls between Central America and the North at local prices. I think that if this company were to start advertising in Cuba, the ETECSA telecommunications company would go bankrupt in less than a week, as all of their clients would swarm to any telephone company that were advertising their services in Panama airport.

We finally boarded our second flight hours later, which belonged to the same airline, taking us to Lima, Peru. The customs check was fun, as there was a really long line. “There you go, now you can’t say that lines are just a Cuban thing,” I joked with one of my travel companions while we moved closer towards the customs.

After being welcomed to Peru by a Customs official, all we had to do was go out and look for Yasmin, who had arrived in Peru from the United States the day before in order to make sure that the group would receive all of the information they needed during our stay in Lima. Our flight had arrived late so we left the International Airport at 1 AM, tired and falling asleep.

Unfortunately, when I got to the place I would sleep that night, I couldn’t fall asleep…

To be continued…

Luis Rondón

Luis Rondon Paz: Activist, Queer, computer scientist, actor, photographer, student and apprentice journalist. Originally from Santiago de Cuba. I believe that people are life projects in constant transformation. I am consistent and responsible for my actions, committed to just causes and a lover of good deeds. Today I write about Cuba in exile, free of psychological torture and persecution of the Cuban dictatorship.