From March 14 to March 22, 19 Fordham undergraduates (pictured above) joined art history professor Barbara Mundy and anthropology professor O. Hugo Benavides, for a weeklong course in Cuba through the Department of Latin American and Latino Studies.
Above, the students are at the Escuelas Nacionales de Arte. From left, they are: Kedwien Valdez, Manuela Rodriguez, Jeandery Suarez, Yani Pena, Alessandro Monetti, Patryk Tomaszewski, Kristine Mijatovich, Allison Pfingst (seated), Amalia Vavala, Sean Coari, Vince Favetta, Pasquale Gianni, Tim Bouffard, James Lassen, Qinrui Hua, Dezsi Desmond, Echo Zhou, Allie Burns, Lauren Kawulicz. The sculpture behind them spells out the word EXILE, which Mundy calls “an appropriate reminder of the complex cultural, linguistic, historical and political moments that Cubans–like so many other Americans in the continent–are living on both sides of the border.”
The weeklong course focused on art, architecture, and life in both pre-Revolution Cuba and now. Casa de las Americas, Cuba’s premiere cultural institution, was Fordham’s partner in organizing the course. Through the Casa, they were exposed to contemporary Cuban cinema and music. The trip also took them to Havana’s Museo de Bellas Artes, where they saw the surrealist-and-santería inspired paintings of Wilfredo Lam and discussed work by contemporary artists as well.
A simple walk in the streets brought students face-to-face with Havana’s urban architecture, much of which dates from before 1960.
The class trip culminated in a visit to Havana’s National Schools of Art, first envisioned, said Mundy, “during a Che-Fidel golf game in an enthusiastic surge following the Revolution.” The Schools’ architects used the materials then available (concrete, brick, tile) and pushed the technology of the Catalan vault to new heights, said Mundy.
Mundy described the trip as “an extraordinary experience for us all,” in which students and faculty both took advantage of Havana beyond their course activities.
“We listened to Cuban jazz, saw Flamenco dancers, swam in turquoise Caribbean waters, and cheered on Havana’s baseball team in a playoff victory (Industriales 9, Santiago de Cuba, 7). Day in and day out, we were able to meet and talk to Cubans, to learn about their experiences living in a country so changed by the Revolution and to share hopes for the future.
“Such encounters are transformative, in that they allow one to see oneself and one’s accepted way of life through the eyes of another,” said Mundy. (See student and faculty photos below.)