Highlights of the International Conference "Building Latin American Bicentennials in the Age of Globalization"

The New School, New York · February 26th, 2009 

21 Universities and 12 Institutions from 12 Countries Participated

After the welcome remarks of Linda Dune, Dean of the New School for General Studies, the five awarded works were presented by their authors in front of an audience of students, professors, scholars, intellectuals, historians and specialists in Latin America. Among them, there were representatives of numerous institutions as the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM); Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, México; FLACSO, Ecuador; Universidad de Buenos Aires; Universidad de Palermo, Buenos Aires; Universidad Central de Chile; Cambridge University, United Kingdom; Tulane University, New Orleans, USA; Tufts University, Boston, USA; Brown University, Providence, USA; New York University, New York, USA; City University of New York, New York, USA; Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA; Consulate General of Argentina in New York; Province 25, a group of Argentine who live in New York and the CEGA (Centro de Estudiantes y Graduados Argentinos en Estados Unidos).

Presentations and discussions

The presentations were contextualized from diverse regional and national perspectives that culminated with the discussion of future research on the Latin American bicentennials.

Regional Perspectives

At regional level, the Director of OLA, Michael Cohen, analyzed the impact of the financial global crisis on Latin America. Co-director Margarita Gutman discussed the meaning of the bicentennial commemorations in the progressive political context of numerous Latin American countries and the increasing number, modality and diversity of initiatives, agents, actors and localities involved. Fernando Carrión analyzed the contrast between the historical meanings of the centennials as a celebration of the conformation of the national states and the developing emergence in these bicentennials of considering questions related to local identities, the recognition of the other, of the history, the present and the building of the future.

Bicentennials as a new foundation: Bolivia and Ecuador

This regional perspective was enhanced by the contributions of the Permanent Ambassadors of Ecuador and Bolivia to the United Nations. María Fernanda Espinoza, of Ecuador, emphasized the need for recovering the building of a non essentialist, multinational and racially mixed nation that includes the migratory community within the framework of non-territorial democracies. She highlighted the concept of sovereignty as an element of resistance and survival, in the context of Latin American cultural, social and trade integration. Pablo Sólon Romero, of Bolivia, redefined this second centennial as a second independence process, as a cultural and democratic revolution which consequences mark a strong rupture between Bolivia and the centers of power. He also maintained that this second independence is linked to the process of Latin American regional integration, to the change of rules of global operation and to the rupture of the "spider webs" of domination.

Bicentennial Challenge: Social Inclusion

Also from a regional perspective, Bernardo Kliksberg (UNDP) analyzed the dramatic consequences of the international economic crisis on the Latin America societies and in particular on their poor population if neo-liberal policies and ethics are continued to be applied. He proposed the implementation of public policies framed in social ethics, as far as the answers to the crisis will be more effective in the most democratic societies.

Nations on the Eve of Bicentennials

From a national perspective, an analysis was held on the bicentennial activities on the move in Argentina (Rita Molinos), Mexico (Virginia Guedea), Ecuador (Fernando Carrión) and Chile (Patricio Gross), in relation to the initiatives of governments and national, state, and municipal institutions, as well as those carried out by the civil society, and their manifestation in urban design, social and cultural activities. Mike Wallace from CUNY presented the exhibition that will be held in the New York Historical Society on the life and influences of the Hispanic and Latin American communities throughout the history and development of the city.

Awards of the International Call

There were five authors awarded by the international call for papers and audiovisual presentations "Building Latin American Bicentennials in the Age of Globalization", carried out between April and September 2008.
Three of the awarded works concentrated on urban related research questions.

Luis Colón Llamas, in "To Represent the Nation in the Urban Space: Bogotá and the Celebration of the Centenary of the Independence", analyzed the symbolic readjustment of the ritual of the celebration and the process of "civilization" of the celebrations during the century XIX in Bogota, emphasizing the urban impact of the idea of progress in the celebrations.

Luis Inostroza Pino, in "The Celebration of the Bicentennial of the Republic in the End of the World. Works-Projects-Concepts", proposed the Bicentennial as the propitious date to "pay the debt" of the Centenary in Punta Arenas and the Chilean Magallanes region through the vindication of its urban patrimony.

On the other hand, the authors of the awarded audiovisual presentation "Plaza de Mayo: 200 years", Alberto Boselli and Graciela Raponi, represented the condensation of the national historical time in the physical space of the plaza, center of the civic life of Buenos Aires. They used digital assemblies of films, photographs, drawings, maps and journalistic articles.

The other two essays analyzed the role of media in the centenary and its possible impact in the construction of the bicentennial.

Andrea Cuarterolo, in "Building the Nation. The Argentine Fiction Cinema of the First Centennial", analyzed the prevailing ideological currents at that time - positivism and nationalism- and its manifestation in the documentary cinema and fiction.

Finally, Alejandra Niedermaier, in "The Visual Imaginary of a national project", examined the images of the Argentine centenary in a selection of massive magazines, postal and albums. The author discussed the possible use of the photographs and the images in the bicentennial.

The awarded works and presentations were commented on by Fernando Carrión (Flacso, Ecuador), Patricio Gross (Universidad Central, Chile), Virginia Guedea (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México -UNAM-, Mexico), Bernardo Kliksberg (UNDP, USA), Peter Lucas (The New School, USA), Brian McGrath (The New School, USA), Carol McMichael Reese (Tulane University, USA), Louise Noelle (UNAM, Mexico) and Thomas Reese (Tulane University, USA).

These five works were selected by an evaluation committee integrated by 31 specialists from 9 countries. The selection process involved evaluations by e-mail and three discussion rounds held in Buenos Aires, New York and Santiago de Chile.

Next activities

Finally, the future research topics of discussion for the biennium 2009-2010 were collectively discussed which detail and implementation will be presented in May 2009.

The Power Points presented in this conference will be accessible on the OLA website soon and a book is expected to be published by the end of 2009. The publication will include the contents of this conference, the five awarded essays, and seven honorary mentions by the international call for papers carried out between April and September of 2008.

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This program is supported by the JULIEN J.STUDLEY FOUNDATION

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