WFU Symposium features Cuban political leaders, artists, scientists and other experts

Cristina GarciaWake Forest University’s Symposium on Cuba March 20-21 will bring a rare mix of experts on Cuba to the United States. Speakers will include a best-selling author, a leading expert on biodiversity and several political dignitaries from the island nation.

“Americans have not had access to much information about Cuba for the last 40 years because of the tense political relationship between the U.S. and Cuba,” said Linda Howe, associate professor of Romance languages. “That lack of current information shaped our goal, which is to provide a series of events that will bring Cuba’s cultural, political, and environmental concerns into focus.”

Symposium speakers will include Dagoberto Rodriguez Barrera, chief of the Cuban Interests Section, and two members of his staff : Cuban first secretaries Olga Fernandez, an expert on Cuba’s relations with the United States, and Gustavo Machin, an economics expert.

Assembling such a broad variety of experts has been difficult due to the political situation between the United States and Cuba, said Candelas Gala, chair of the Romance languages department at Wake Forest.

“This symposium has been in the works for two years,” Gala said. “It is the product of a trip that various Wake Forest department chairs and administrators took to Havana two years ago. We knew we wanted to develop cultural exchanges with our counterparts in Cuba, and the symposium is the first result of that effort.”

Since 1997, Wake Forest’s Romance languages department has sponsored a summer study program in Cuba.

All of the symposium events are free and open to the public except for a March 21 concert that is part of the Secrest Artists Series. All of the events will take place at Wake Forest.

Gala also said that the symposium schedule was designed to offer programs that appeal to various interests.

“Cuba is an enigma for many people,” Gala said. “It is the last stronghold of a communist world that just collapsed, and many people are wondering why we have an embargo with a country that is so close to us. We invite people to come to the symposium to learn more about Cuba from scholars and other experts, as well as performers who will be our guest presenters.”

The symposium begins March 20 when Cuban-American author Cristina Garcia will read from her novels at 3:30 p.m. in Benson University Center’s Pugh Auditorium.

Garcia’s 1993 book, “Dreaming in Cuban,” was nominated for a National Book Award. Her most recent novel is “The Aguero Sisters,” published in 1997. Garcia has been a Guggenheim Fellow and is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award.

Also on March 20, Cuban biologist Lourdes Mugica Valdes will present “Rice Fields and Their Importance in the Conservation of Aquatic Birds” at 4 p.m. in Winston Hall, Room 125.

The final event on March 20 is a 5:30 p.m. panel discussion on various topics about Cuba in Pugh Auditorium. Lourdes Mugica Valdes will speak about Cuban biodiversity and Cristina Garcia will speak about Cuban literature. Gustavo Machin, Cuba’s economic secretary, will discuss the nation’s economy and foreign investments. Ariel Aguilar, professor at the Institute for U.S./Cuba Relations in Cuba, will speak about race relations in Cuba.

On March 21, the symposium continues with an 11 a.m. “Meet the Artists” program in the lobby outside Brendle Recital Hall at Scales Fine Arts Center. Camerata Romeu, an all-female Cuban string ensemble conducted by Zenaida Romeu, will be present to answer questions about their work.

The group rarely performs in the United States, but has gained international acclaim for their performances in Spain, Mexico, Canada and South America. Their repertory ranges from classical string standards to music by contemporary Latin American composers.

The next symposium event, a forum titled “U.S.-Cuban Relations,” will be held at 4:30 p.m. in Pugh Auditorium. Speakers will be Dagoberto Rodriguez Barrera, chief of the Cuban Interests Section, and Cuba First Secretary Olga Fernandez.

At 8 p.m., Camerata Romeu will perform in Brendle Recital Hall as part of the university’s Secrest Artists Series. Tickets for this event are available through the Secrest Series office, 336-758-5757. Admission is $15 for the general public, and $12 for students and senior citizens.

Several academic and administrative departments at Wake Forest departments are
symposium sponsors. For more information on any of the symposium events, call the Wake Forest Romance languages department, 336-758-5487.

WFU Cuba Symposium calendar of events

March 20

3:30 p.m. Cuban-American novelist Cristina Garcia reads from her works, Pugh
Auditorium. Free.

4 p.m. Lourdes Mugica Valdes presents “Rice Fields and their Importance
in the Conservation of Aquatic Birds” in Winston Hall, Room 125. Free.

5:30 p.m. Panel discussion with biologist Lourdes Mugica Valdes, economic expert Gustavo Machin, sociologist Ariel Aguilar, and author Cristina Garcia, Pugh Auditorium. Free.

March 21

11 a.m. “Meet the Artists” with Camerata Romeu, Brendle Recital Hall. Free.

4:30 p.m. “U.S./Cuban Relations” presented by Dagoberto Rodriguez Barrera, chief of the Cuban Interests Section, and Olga Fernandez, Cuban first secretary. Pugh Auditorium. Free.

8 p.m. Camerata Romeu concert, part of Secrest Artists Series. Brendle Recital Hall inside Scales Fine Arts Center. Tickets: $15 general admission, $12 for senior citizens and non-Wake Forest students.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Events, Speakers