Press Release: Changing Cuba / Changing World

March 1, 2008

The dynamics of contemporary Cuba -- the culture, the people, and the politics -- will be the focus of a three-day international symposium, “A Changing Cuba in a Changing World,” to run March 13-15 at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in Manhattan (365 Fifth Ave., between 34th and 35th Streets).  Organized by the Graduate Center’s Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies and two years in the making, the conference has drawn the attention of specialists throughout the world.

The dynamics of contemporary Cuba -- the culture, the people, and the politics -- will be the focus of a three-day international symposium, “A Changing Cuba in a Changing World,” to run March 13-15 at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in Manhattan (365 Fifth Ave., between 34th and 35th Streets).  Organized by the Graduate Center’s Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies and two years in the making, the conference has drawn the attention of specialists throughout the world. 

About 35 panels, combining perspectives from the social sciences and economics, the arts and the humanities, and the world of policymakers, will provide in-depth treatment of a wide range of topics such as U.S.-Cuba relations, Cubans in the U.S., non-U.S. points of view, Cuban healthcare, the history and legacy of the Cuban revolution, cinema, literature, cultural institutions, the visual and performing arts, religion, the role of intellectuals, Afro-Cuban cultural movements, women, race and ethnicity, and Cuban music.

The opening plenary -- “Current Dynamics, Changing Perspectives,” on March 13 (Thursday) -- will feature distinguished professor Jorge Domínguez, former U.S. representative to Cuba Vicki Huddleston, and noted Canadian economist Archibald Ritter. They will introduce the interdisciplinary theme of the conference and the optimal path for gaining insights into contemporary Cuba.

A special plenary -- “Cuba and the Media: Getting In and Getting It Right,” on March 14 (Friday) -- will bring together distinguished journalists, including Anthony DePalma (The New York Times), Soledad O’Brien (CNN), Emily Morris (The Economist Intelligence Unit), and Francis Robles (Miami Herald), to discuss the latest developments in Cuba, the challenges for U.S. journalists of gaining access to Cuba and accurately understanding and reporting the often contradictory Cuban reality.

“The idea is to focus on a broader, longer-term understanding of Cuban dynamics than usually happens,” says Dr. Mauricio Font, director of the Bildner Center, who organized the symposium. “Our basic assumption is that a multidisciplinary approach is essential to grasp the complexities of the transformation in Cuban society.”

A special session will explore the nature of the Fidel Castro-led drive to supersede the post-Soviet “special period” with a new approach, which Castro baptized “the battle of ideas.” The panel will draw out differences between this approach and that of reformists. Other panels will address the ongoing debates among intellectuals within Cuba, their relations with those in power, and the extent to which socialism is changing and a transition is taking place.

Highlighting cultural developments, a panel of art experts will discuss the historic exhibition currently on view at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, “¡Cuba! Art and History from 1868 to Today,” which is receiving wide international acclaim. The curator of the show, Stéphane Aquin, and associates will give a special presentation. In addition, several panels will discuss the Cuban collections at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Bronx Museum of Art, and Cuba’s “Espacio Aglutinador.”

The conference will also feature special cultural events, including free screenings of movies (open to the public), a Latin-jazz concert (registration required), and a book party celebrating new books on Cuba (registration required).

Free screenings of the following movies are scheduled in the Martin E. Segal Theatre at the Graduate Center on March 12 (Wednesday, 3 p.m.), preceding the formal opening of the symposium, and again on March 15 (Saturday, 9 a.m.):

  • Viva Cuba, by Juan Carlos Cremata, a fable-like tale about childhood and a family’s road adventures throughout the island (80 minutes).
  • Havana: The New Art of Making Ruins, by Florian Borchmeyer and Matthias Hentschler, a documentary about Havana residents who live in the city’s dilapidated buildings and who refuse to move out despite the rundown conditions (86 minutes).
  • The Sugar Curtain, by Camila Guzmán Urzúa, a documentary offering an intimate portrait of the Cuban revolution as seen through the eyes of the generation that grew up in the 1970s (80 minutes).

A concert by the Cu-NY Latin Jazz Ensemble, “Bridges Through Time,” is scheduled in the Elebash Recital Hall at the Graduate Center on Thursday, March 13, (5:45 p.m.). The ensemble, a partnership between the Bildner Center’s Cuba Project and pianist Oriente López, was created to explore the rich historical and ongoing connections between the musical worlds of Cuba and New York City, as well as the broader global synergies among Brazil, Cuba, and the U.S.

Scholarly panels and presentations on Thursday, March 13:
10:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.:

  • “Cuba’s Globalized Art World and Evolving Art Market”

  • “U.S.-Cuba Relations” (Part I)

  • “Energy: Cuba’s Challenges and Opportunities”

  • “History, Institutions and Legacy”

12:35 p.m.-2:30 p.m.:

  • “Contemporary Cuban Art: Museums and Alternative Spaces”

1:30 p.m.-3:20 p.m.:

  • “Inside the Revolution”
  • “Tourism, Urban Conservation, and Environment”

  • “Cuba’s Battle of Ideas”

3:30 p.m.-5:20 p.m.:

  • “U.S.-Cuba Relations” (Part II)
  • “Religion and Politics in Cuba”

  • “ ‘Espejo de Paciencia’ (1608-2008); proyecciones literarias e históricas” (ends 4:15 p.m.)

  • “Cuban Writers Read Their Work” (4:20-5:20 p.m.)

Scholarly panels and presentations on Friday, March 14:

 8:30 a.m.-10:00 a.m.:

  • “Organizing Culture: Theory and Practice”

  • “Medicine in Cuba: Past and Present”

  • “Non-Heteronormative Cuba”

  • “Race and Ethnicity in Cuba: Beyond Black and White (Part I)”

10:15 a.m.-11:45 a.m.:

  • “Economics” (Part I)

  • “Cuban Filmmaking Since 1989”

  • “Cuban Literature from 1900 to the Present (Part I)”

  • “Intelectualidad y poder en Cuba”

12:10 p.m.-1:30 p.m.

  • “Images and Discussion about the “¡Cuba! Art and History from 1868 to Today,” exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts     

1:30 p.m.-3:20 p.m.:

  • “Cuban History and Civil Society” (Part I)

  • “Cuban Literature from 1990 to the Present” (Part II)

  • “Cuba and the World (Excluding the U.S.)”

  • “Visual and Performing Arts in Contemporary Cuba”

3:30 p.m.-5:20 p.m.:

  • “Afro-Cuban Cultural Movements”

  • “Socialism in a Changing Cuba”

  • “Cuba: In Transition?”

  • “Changing Cuba: New Opportunities and Challenges”

Scholarly panels and presentations on Saturday, March 15:

9:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.:

  • “Republican Cuba: Voices, Ideas and Legacies”

  • “Cuban Music Today”

  • “Race and Ethnicity in Cuba: Beyond Black and White” (Part II)

10:40 a.m.-12:10 p.m.:

  • “Cubans in the U.S.: Generational Differences Among Cubans”

  • “Women and the Cuban Literary Perspective”

  • “Economics” (Part II)

Times are subject to change. A complete listing of the programs and events, along with the participants and the presentations, is online and available to download at Information on registration and fees is available at

The Graduate Center is the doctorate-granting institution of The City University of New York (CUNY). An internationally recognized center for advanced studies and a national model for public doctoral education, the school offers more than thirty doctoral programs as well as a number of master’s programs. Many of its faculty members are among the world’s leading scholars in their respective fields, and its alumni hold major positions in industry and government, as well as in academia. The Graduate Center is also home to more than thirty interdisciplinary research centers and institutes focused on areas of compelling social, civic, cultural, and scientific concerns.  Located in a landmark Fifth Avenue building, the Graduate Center has become a vital part of New York City’s intellectual and cultural life with its extensive array of public lectures, exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical events.  Further information on the Graduate Center and its programs can be found at The book party to celebrate “New Books on Cuba” -- scheduled on March 15, Saturday, 12:15 p.m.-1:45 p.m. -- includes the following authors and titles:

Isabel Álvarez-Borland, Lynette M. F. Bosch, and Jorge J. E. Gracia, Identity, Memory, and Diaspora: Voices of Cuban-American Artists, Writers, and Philosophers. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 2008.
Ruth Behar, An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2007.
Anke Birkenmaier, Alejo Carpentier y la cultura del surrealismo en América Latina. Frankfurt – Madrid: Iberoamericana-Vervuert, 2006.

Nathalie Bondil, editor, Cuba! Art and History from 1868 to Today. Montreal: Prestel Publishing, 2008.
Philip Brenner, Marguerite Rose Jiménez, John M. Kirk, & William M. LeoGrande, eds., A Contemporary Cuba Reader: Reinventing the Revolution. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2007.
Sergio Díaz-Briquets and Jorge Pérez-López, Corruption in Cuba: Castro and Beyond. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 2006.
Sujatha Fernandes, Cuba Represent! Cuban Arts, State Power, and the Making of New Revolutionary Cultures. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2006.
Alexander Gray and Antoni Kapcia, The Changing Dynamic of Cuban Civil Society. Gainsville, Fla.:  University Press of Florida, 2008.
Ted Henken, Cuba: A Global Studies Handbook. Santa Barbara/Denver/Oxford: ABC-CLIO, 2008.
Jacqueline Loss and Esther Whitfield, New Short Fiction from Cuba. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2007.
William Luis, Juan Francisco Manzano. Autobiografía del esclavo poeta y otros escritos. Frankfurt – Madrid: Iberoamericana-Vervuert, 2007.
Rafael Ocasio, A Gay Cuban Activist in Exile: Reinaldo Arenas. Gainesville, Fla.: University Press of Florida, 2007.
Silvia Pedraza, Political Disaffection in Cuba’s Revolution and Exodus. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Natania Remba, Surrounded by Water: Expressions of Freedom and Isolation in Contemporary Cuban Art. Boston University Art Gallery, 2008.
Rafael Rojas, Motivos de Anteo. Patria y nación en la historia intelectual de Cuba. Madrid: Colibrí, 2008.
Araceli Tinajero, El lector de tabaquería. Madrid: Verbum, 2007.
Esther Whitfield, Cuban Currency: The Dollar and “Special Period” in Fiction. Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.
Stephen Wilkinson, Detective Fiction in Cuban Society and Culture. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2006.
Lisa Yun, The Coolie Speaks: Chinese and Africans of Cuba. Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University Press, 2007.