Editor's Note

By Luis, William | Afro - Hispanic Review, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Editor's Note


Luis, William, Afro - Hispanic Review


Afro -Hispanics comprise a vital and growing sector of the world's Hispanic populations. The Afro'Hispanic Review continues to evolve and reflect the dynamic trends I observe in my readings, conversations, and travels. During the summer, I attended two international conferences. The first was the Latin American Studies Association meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As usual, there were many exciting sessions, with interesting topics, including the one in which I was invited to partake", titled Slavery, Literacy, and the Rise of the Afro-Latin American Intellectual. The panel promoted interdisciplinary studies; in this case, a literary critic joined a distinguished group of historians.

An important component of this and other conferences is to explore local culture, meet new people, and visit with old friends. I did most of my sightseeing with Evelyn Hu-DeHart and Kathy López, guest editors of the Spring 2007 Afro-Hispanic Review issue on Afro-Asia, and together we marveled at the Cristo Redentor and the Päo de Acucar, which we visited one misty afternoon, among other spectacular sights, too numerous to mention in this note. I also joined Bob Márquez and his wife Maddie, to celebrate her birthday. She found a wonderful restaurant, Aprazivel, high above in the old Santa Teresa district, with a beautiful view of downtown Rio and the Guanabara Bay, and we watched as the sun made its daily journey to the bottom of the horizon and the moon found its desired place amongst the stars. For those who have not had the good fortune to travel to Rio, it is an amazing city, full of activities, various styles of architecture, striking land formations, and, of course, wonderful restaurants. For me, the sea is always a major attraction, regardless of the location and weather; I am compelled to pay homage to Yemayá.

There were many conference participants, but we were scattered throughout the Rio tapestry. And, though the arrangements at the Pontificia Universidade Católica were comfortable and well designed, they were not necessarily conducive to the casual interactions and accidental encounters with colleagues that are common at other venues. As I review the program, I am still surprised to find the names of Vanderbilt colleagues who attended, but whom I did not see, not even from a distance.

The conference theme, Rethinking Inequalities, seemed to mirror the city's location. The public and accessible spaces of central Rio were in sharp contrast to the favelas on the outskirts of the city. This became evident to me as I made my way to Petrópolis and saw what seemed to be kilometer after kilometer of shantytowns painted on the distant landscape, everywhere, from the top of rolling hills to the bottom of what appeared to be flood plains.

In August I attended the IX Seminario Internacional de Estudios del Caribe, in Cartagena, Colombia. I must confess that Cartagena has rapidly become one of my favorite places to visit. And like other coastal cities, Cartagena captures both the intellectual and the expressive spirit of the greater Caribbean. The fortification of the colonial district reminded me of those found in Havana, San Juan, and Santo Domingo, a visual reminder of the common history of pirate attacks, slave markets, and Spanish colonization. The Club de Pesca sits atop the Fuerte de San Sebastián del Pastelillo, overlooking the radiant Getsemani bay of Cartagena. Once there, one can sample the Pescadito Frente al Mar - with coconut rice, green salad, and the famous patacones - or the Beef Tournedo with a red wine and blue cheese reduction. The sea, yes, the sea, is most spectacular when traveling to Barú.

Perhaps I ought to return to the purpose of this note. Professor Alfonso Muñera and his staff should be congratulated for organizing an important conference that underscored a broader definition of the Caribbean, one that goes beyond the geographical aggregation of island nations. As is to be expected, the mainland nations, like Colombia, share similar histories and cultures known to the islands. …

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