Spanish Professor Visits Cuba

Spanish Professor Visits Cuba

By Judith Stallings-Ward, Associate Professor of Spanish

Professor Judith Stallings-Ward traveled to Cuba with the Vermont Council for World Affairs between March 24 and April 3, 2017. Her trip was made possible by the generous support of a Bride Family Foundation Humanities Endowment for Faculty Development. The Vermont Council tour, which Professor Stallings-Ward undertook for the purposes of curriculum development and scholarly research, represented a unique opportunity to experience the country firsthand and to visit its museums and archives. Given the fact that Cuba remains under a U.S. embargo and no U.S. airlines fly into Havana, any visit to Cuba by a citizen of the United States must be arranged as a people-to-people tour for educational purposes.

The itinerary arranged by the Vermont Council for World Affairs involved historical, political, and cultural tours at museums, centers for Cuban studies, cemeteries, and the Hemingway home in Havana. The group also visited Santa Clara, site of the deciding battle of the Cuban Revolution in 1958 and Ché Guevara’s mausoleum, and Trinidad, the best-preserved colonial town.

Most of Professor Stallings-Ward’s research for curriculum development was carried out in Havana at the Museum of the Revolution and at the Museum of José Martí. These museums afforded access to historical archives and documents unavailable outside of Cuba, which provided valuable resources for her interdisciplinary course Spanish 350 EN La Guerilla, an exploration of guerilla movements in Latin America and the art, music, and literature that accompanied them. The course was taught as an independent study in fall 2016 with two students, and will be offered as a regular course to be taught in English in fall 2017.

Professor Stallings-Ward commented that “Cuba’s role in inspiring and encouraging guerilla movements throughout the Americas cannot be overstated. The grant I received allowed me to experience the Cuban experiment—its museums, archives, institutions, universities, archives, music, art, everyday life—and the opportunity to a gather a wealth of material and intellectual resources to bring to bear on this course, resources to which I would otherwise have no access. And, as Cuba re-opens to the West and re-admits commercial investments from abroad, it is likely that much of what I saw in Cuba will soon disappear. Any instructor teaching a course on Cuba and la guerrilla needs to visit Cuba at this unique point and time in history.”

The Bride Award also allowed Professor Stallings-Ward to conduct research in Cuba that will expand her publications on the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. In 1929 Lorca made his first and only visit to the American Hemisphere, spending time in New York, Vermont, and Cuba. Professor Stallings-Ward has published on the poetry Lorca wrote in Vermont and in New York City. “In New York, Lorca was introduced to jazz and blues, and in Cuba to the son cubano. I want to explore how Lorca’s own spiritual growth as a human being and as a poet evolved while he was in Cuba,” she explained.

Professor Stallings-Ward also plans to use her insights gained about Cuba as a springboard for offering a series of CoLA Colloquia on Cuba during the 2017–18 academic year. She hopes to collaborate with other Norwich faculty within and outside the Spanish program, and with other experts outside the Norwich community in this endeavor. “Two of my colleagues in the Spanish Program, Professors Gina Sherriff and Kaitlin Thomas,will also be visiting Cuba very soon. In our series of colloquia, we hope to examine Afro-Cuban music, writers such as Hemmingway and Lorca who lived in Cuba, as well as Cuba and Africa, among other fascinating issues.”