Major Cuba Symposium Coming to New York

By Dawn Gable

Old Havana photo by Elio Delgado.

HAVANA TIMES, March 13 — A three-day international and interdisciplinary symposium entitled Cuba Futures will begin March 31 at the City University of New York.

The event will be the seventh roughly bi-annual conference held under the auspices of the Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies Cuba Program, which sponsors numerous Cuba related events throughout the year in an effort to maintain dialogue among academia, policymakers, media, and business.

Attendance is open to the public for a fee (student discount available) and is expected to at least match that of 2008, which surpassed 700. Registration and schedule information can be found here.

While the event will include a book fair, a live performance by The Arturo O’Farrill Latin Jazz Ensemble, and a special event called Dance in Cuba featuring Caridad Martinez formerly of the Cuban National Ballet, the main focus will be on the 60 panels consisting in over 200 diverse presentations ranging from “New Forms of Enterprise in Cuba’s Changing Economy” by Camila Piñeiro of the University of Havana to “Books for Granma – Bookmobile to Rural Cuba I” by Dana Lubow of Los Angeles Valley College.

Havana Times contributor Alfredo Prieto, of the Cuban Writers and Artists Association (UNEAC), will be on the panel “Dynamics of the Contemporary Cuban Diaspora I” presenting his paper “Havana-Miami: bridges over turbulent waters”.

Likewise, Havana Times editor Circles Robinson will join Ana Lopez, of Tulane University and Tracey Eaton, editor of Along the Malecon blog as discussants for the panel Digital Dilemmas: The Internet and Blogs in Cuba Today.

Making up that panel will be author Cristina Venegas whose new book, Digital Dilemmas: The State, the Individual, & Digital Media in Cuba, examines the impact of new communication technologies on culture and governance and questions whether Internet use necessarily advances democracy; Diana Coryat, who will talk about youth contributions to Cuban media, and Alexander Lamazares and Evelyn Silva, who will focus on the blog Generation Y; and Nanne Timmer.

While the 2011 plenary speaker line-up is not fully available yet, it is safe to assume it will be as hard-hitting as it was for the previous edition. Three years ago the theme “A Changing Cuba in a Changing World” attracted two former US Interests Section (USIS) officials Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, who gave an impassioned intervention calling for an end to the embargo and Economics Officer Gary Maybarduk, who made a strong argument for repealing the Helms-Burton based on US national security concerns.

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien shared her touching personal story of reuniting with family in Cuba and Miami Herald’s Francis Robles flippantly described being escorted back to the airport after sneaking into Cuba on a tourist visa.

However, by far the biggest name on the bill was Caleb McCarry, the second Bush administration’s Cuba Transition Coordinator who did not find himself among friends and used the old “I have a plane to catch” in order to rush out after spewing his unpopular views.

(Later that year, McCarry gave the largest single government grant for Cuba “democracy promotion” in history, $6.5 million, to Creative Associates International through USAID, which subsequently hired McCarry two months later (read more).