Breaching Barriers

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Cuban Flag

Academic and cultural events series examines relationship with Cuba.
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By Bill Giduz

With the wall of political enmity between the United States and Cuba seemingly weakening, the time was right for the college’s Latin American Studies program to examine the complicated relationship between the two countries. Interested college constituents collaborated in January and February to produce a series of cultural and academic events under the heading “Cuba: Memory, Migration, Art.”

The initiative began with Associate Professor and Chair of Theatre Sharon Green. She responded to Davidson’s approval in 2011 of Latin American Studies as an interdisciplinary major with determination to stage a play about the region. Green read dozens of scripts and settled on Sonia Flew, a drama in which historical events involving Cuba and America create tumult and uncertainty in the lives of ordinary people. The play won the Elliott Norton Award for best new play in 2009.

Green then decided to try to put the play in a bigger context. She met with Chair of Latin American Studies and Associate Professor of History Jane Mangan to discuss other programming possibilities. Green and Mangan invited faculty and students with interests in Latin American studies to contribute ideas, and the initiative eventually spawned a whole series of activities and programs.

An academician visited campus to comment on Havana’s crumbling architecture, and a dance instructor discussed and gave lessons in the rumba. Students and staff of Cuban heritage presented a panel discussion, and small groups discussed Latin American affairs over lunch. There was a photo exhibit and film series, and a Cuban dance party for the cast and crew of the play.

“That’s the kind of educational model of cooperation across disciplines we like to promote at Davidson,” Green said. “This is a small institution where you can get to know each other intellectually and personally, and that makes this type of collaboration possible.”

The play was the centerpiece of the activities. Sonia Flew is set in two time periods—1960 Cuba and post-9/11 America—and concerns difficult parental decisions forced by brutal outside events. Director Sharon Green said, “To me as a parent, this play is a reminder that relationships can be healed, and that our best hopes for our children sometimes aren’t their own desires.”

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