Lecture series gives closer look into Cuban-American relations

Amy Dassow

The department of modern languages is currently hosting a series of lectures and presentations on Cuba called “Tracing the Unexplored: A Vivid Journey through Cuba.”

This lecture series is in its sixth year at WKU, and Sonia Lenk of the modern languages department said she is pleased to usher in Cuba as a main topic of discussion.

Lenk believes that Latinos and Hispanics within the United States are seen as an “invisible people”: they come to America and become part of society, raising children and working jobs, but are under-recognized as a minority.

Her hope is that a renewed emphasis and look at the stories and lives of people from Hispanic and Latin American areas of the world will help call attention to the lives of such people living and working in America today.

Recently, WKU hosted film director and producer Catherine Murphy, who presented her film “La Maestra: The Cuban Literacy Campaign through the Eyes of a Teacher” on Feb. 25 in Gary Ransdell Hall.

Murphy first went to Cuba in 1992, and “became fascinated with the stories of people who stayed in Cuba after 1959.”

Murphy’s documentary focuses on the stories of eight women who participated in the national campaign for literacy in 1961 in Cuba.

The campaign called for volunteer teachers to go into both rural and urban areas, and teach people how to read and write. Over the course of one year, Murphy said around 700,000 people reached a first grade level of literacy.

“This is a huge story in the history of the Americas that people know very little about,” Murphy said.

A quarter of a million people had left Cuba during 1959-1962, the first years after the Cuban Revolution, when Fidel Castro came to power.

“It really is one of the global conflicts of the day, and I think it’s really important for people in the U.S. to learn a little bit from the Cubans living on the island,” Murphy said. “How can we begin to work towards a solution towards this 50-year standoff?”

WKU assistant professor Walker Rutledge recently led a group of students to Cuba during Winter Term. Sarah Fox, a history and music major, attended the film showing and went on the trip. She said that the most interesting thing she noticed about the relationship between Cuba and America was “not the differences but the similarities.”

“We are not Americans and they are Cubans, we are just people with hopes and dreams,” the sophomore from Russellville said. “And that was just a breakthrough for me.”

The Cuba lecture series will conclude on March 5. For more information, contact Sonia Lenk at [email protected] To learn more about Murphy’s documentary, go to www.maestrathefilm.org.