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Insight into Cuba

It is an interesting time for Cuba as the process of normalizing ties with the United States continues.  The same holds true for those with connections or a study interest to the Caribbean country, such as Queen’s University.

Queen's In the World

Now in its ninth year, the Queen’s University-University of Havana collaboration in the Global Development Studies (DEVS) course “Cuban Culture and Society” will see a group of up to 40 Queen’s students travel to Cuba this May. Through a second agreement between the universities, Queen’s students study on exchange in Havana, and a scholar from the University of Havana visits Queen’s to give lectures and speak with students.

Economist Laneydi Martinez Alfonso will be visiting Queen's from March 14-24. Her visit is supported by the International Visitors Program of the Principal’s Development Fund.

This year, however, a pair of visitors will visit Queen’s, and that has Karen Dubinsky (Global Development Studies), co-teacher on the DEVS course with Susan Lord (Film and Media), very excited.

Economist Laneydi Martinez Alfonso, who recently received a joint doctorate from the University of Havana and the Sorbonne, will be visiting Queen’s from March 14-24. With a specialty in Cuban-Caribbean economic relations, Dr. Martinez will be able to provide great insight into this era of change.

“We wanted to invite Dr. Martinez Alfonso because she is an economist and the Cuban economy is undergoing such changes now that we thought that would be the perfect field to bring to Queen’s to explain further what is going on,” Dr. Dubinsky says. “Nobody knows where these changes are going to lead, so I am really keen to hear what she has to say to everybody about that.”

Pianist Aldo Lopez-Gavilan is performing at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on March 23.

While at Queen’s, Dr. Martínez Alfonso will join classes in geography and global development studies and will present her research to the Studies in National and International Development (SNID) seminar series. 

Also arriving at Queen’s is pianist Aldo Lopez-Gavilan, who last year accompanied visiting musician Carlos Varela. Lopez-Gavilan will be speaking to cultural studies students about contemporary Cuban music, and will perform a much-anticipated solo concert at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, March 23, starting at 7:30 pm.   

As Dr. Dubinsky explains, it is difficult to pin down Lopez-Gavilan’s style. But that is part of what makes his performances so captivating.

“One of the reasons I think it will be interesting to hear him, as well as to listen to him musically, is that he’s versatile,” she says. “He comes from classical training, he’s from a well-known classical music family, as so many musicians are, but he’s branched out into jazz and what he calls world music.”

The opening of relations between Cuba and the US will likely have an effect on the universities’ collaborations but Dr. Dubinsky is confident that they will continue to flourish. She points to the continuing focus on reciprocity for nearly a decade now, with both sides benefitting.

“We’re both apprehensive and optimistic now that Cuba is changing,” she says. “It’s interesting to be a kind of participant observer in a place that is not your own but I am really watching these obvious, obvious changes. Every time I go we can see different changes that are taking place.” 

To further cement the relationship Dr. Dubinsky hopes the program will expand to allow a Cuban student to visit Queen’s as well. In connection with this a portion of the proceeds from the concert will go to the Sonia Enjamio Fund at Queen’s to support Cuban and Canadian student exchange programs. 

Advance tickets for the concert are: Students $12, Regular $15, at the door $20.

All tickets are general admission and  can be purchased at the Global Development Studies Department Office, Mac Corry B401, at Novel Idea Books, 156 Princess St., or online.