The election of a new US president in November of 2008 marks the official beginning of the Age of Obama. As a candidate who received unprecedented support from an overwhelming majority of the population, including those who continue to be at the margins of society - African Americans, Hispanice, and Latinos - I expect that the newly elected president will articulate national and world visions that will be dramatically different from those of the outgoing administration. I am hopeful that this other vision will be more compatible with the lives and cultures of the many different people who reside in the United States. It will communicate a more accurate and representative concept of the nation and the national, one that reflects the country's multiracial and multiethnic peoples and cultures.
Indeed, in growing numbers, scholars are paying close attention to topics and regions of the world that in previous decades were considered unworthy of serious academic research, studies that the Afro-Hispanic Review has unwaveringly promoted. Nevertheless, the shifts we are witnessing are not totally serendipitous, nor are they without historical, political, demographic, and literary considerations. These factors have always been present but are currently more noticeable and represent a force that cannot be silenced or made to disappear.
With the increase in Hispanic immigrants and a growing Latino population, centers of higher education have had to make the proper adjustments and reorganize priorities to address trends in the population and the most recent interests of students and scholars. Many universities across the country have transfered resources from the more "prestigious" European languages and programs to accommodate growing demands for Spanish language and Spanish American literature courses. A similar case can be made for the invaluable presence of African American, Afro-Hispanic, Latin American, and Latino Studies programs, which have become an inherent part of any serious academic offering. Certainly, the guiding principles enacted to increase admission of underrepresented groups in previous decades were instrumental in diversifying student population, thus reflecting more accurately the ethnic and racial composition of society. These decisions would have long-term effects, such as "legitimizing" studies that reflect a more comprehensive approach to a diverse society; they also create avenues for researchers that guide current dialogues about pertinent topics such as race, gender, politics, criticism, and the canon. With the election of Obama, I expect greater awareness of significant matters previously considered marginal by those interested in promoting singular issues that are closer to their own racial, ethnic, sexual, and cultural backgrounds. While the A/ro-Hispanic Review supports an open dialogue on any and all topics, one can only expect the usual and predictable resistance by the traditional quarters of society that have a personal interest in upholding a rapidly fading status quo.
The shifting patterns are visible in the lives, actions, and activities of people throughout the Americas and evident in my recent travels. In the summer of 2008, I attended the Afro-Latin American Research Association meeting held in the beautiful city of Cartagena, Colombia. The conference, which was well attended and organized, included two distinguished guest speakers, Prof. Alfonso Múnera Cavadía, of the Universidad de Cartagena, who presented a provocative interpretation of Colombian history, and Edelma Zapata Pérez, who shared her poetic talents with the attentive authence; some of her poems appear in the present issue of the Afro-Hispanic Review. Edelma has become a close friend of Vanderbilt University and the Afro-Hispanic Review in particular. Edelma is the daughter of the famed Afro-Colombian writer, Manuel Zapata Olivella (1920-2004), and was instrumental in preparing a monographic issue on his life and works (AHR 24. …