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Academics Weigh New Field of Study on ‘Spanish Caribbean’

Fort San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was built by the Spanish in the 16th Century. (Photo by Ellis Simon.)

International Conference July 25 – 27 in Dominican Republic to Consider Pros and Cons; CCNY Sociologist Ramona Hernández Chairs Meeting

After close to a year of groundwork, nearly 100 academics representing some 50 institutions from around the world will gather July 25 - 27 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, for an academic conference titled “The Spanish Caribbean: Toward a Field of its Own.”  The scholars will discuss the creation of a new field of graduate-level study focused on Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico plus émigré populations who trace their ancestry to these lands.

“The Spanish Caribbean: Toward a Field of its Own,” is presented by the Working Group on the Spanish Caribbean of the Inter-University Program on Latino Research (IUPLR) and is co-sponsored by the following organizations:

  • CUNY Dominican Studies Institute (CUNY DSI);
  • The City College of New York Division of Social Sciences (CCNY);
  • Instituto Global de Altos Estudios en Ciencias Sociales (IGLOBAL);
  • Fundación Global Desarrollo y Democracia (FUNGLODE);
  • Academia Dominicana de la Historia.

Dr. Ramona Hernández, CUNY DSI director and professor of sociology at The City College, chairs the conference as well as the working group.

The conference in Santo Domingo is the first public outreach by the group to academic colleagues and members of the general public with an interest in the Spanish Caribbean. The group first met in April 2010 at IUPLR headquarters at the University of Notre Dame where IUPLR director Dr. Gilberto Cárdenas led discussions on the group’s mission and agenda.

As chair, Dr. Hernández formally convened the group in November at a two-day meeting at CCNY.  At this meeting, members presented position papers in support of the establishment of the new field of study and agreed to hold the international conference to make their position public.

“I have the privilege of embarking on this effort to establish the field of Spanish Caribbean studies with a group of colleagues who are among the most respected scholars in their fields,” Professor Hernández explained.  “With this conference, we expand the conversation; we expose a daring proposition to scrutiny and debate.

“We dare suggest a new approach to the study of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and their émigré communities; an approach that challenges us by the weight of the historical evidence, much of which is yet to be explored, and modern-day reality, about which most of the research is country-specific, to discover the parallels, similarities and differences among them for a truly comparative perspective.”

Dr. Hernández stated that she hopes the conference will achieve a consensus in order to begin curriculum development. “Even if the consensus is simply to continue the conversation, I am sure that we will go back to the classroom and our research invigorated by the power of the exchange.”

Dr. Cárdenas praised the working group as “an extraordinary example of the kind of interdisciplinary, collaborative and comparative research that IUPLR has sought to foster since its inception.  

“This is innovative thinking at its finest; a bold academic venture that seeks to break boundaries between disciplines to give us new perspectives on Latinos by focusing our attention on the strong historical connections of three major immigrant groups – Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Dominicans."

Conference Agenda

The conference will be entirely in Spanish, and will be open to the public at no charge. Although advance registration is now closed due to space limitations, a waiting list is in place for those who would like to attend.  Complete information on location, travel, hotel, registration, and the conference schedule is available at

The three-day conference has been organized as moderated panel presentations by leading intellectuals from various disciplines with country and area expertise on the Spanish Caribbean and Latino studies.  The conference will open at IGLOBAL with a reception and welcoming remarks by its rector, Dr. Marcos Villamán; Dr. Cárdenas of IUPLR; and Dr. Juan Carlos Mercado, CCNY’s interim provost.

These will be followed by the keynote address and four panel discussions:

  • Bibliographic collections in the U.S. to support the study of the Spanish Caribbean;
  • Santo Domingo in Revolutionary Times;
  • Progress and Modernity in Contemporary Dialogue on the Spanish Caribbean;
  • Topics Rarely Studied/Researched in Dominican Studies.

The second and third-day meetings will be held at Academia Dominicana de la Historia (Dominican Academy of History), also in Santo Domingo, where world-renowned historian Dr. Frank Moya Pons, head of the Academia, will preside. Four panels will address the following topics:

  • Crossing Borders;
  • Coverage of the Spanish Caribbean in Mass Media;
  • The Spanish Caribbean in the Popular Imagination;
  • Blackness (Negritude) in the Spanish Caribbean.

The conference will close at the Academia with two panels addressing the topics: New Perspectives on the Process of “Americanization” in Puerto Rico; and Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Dominican Immigrant Experience in the United States.  Dr. Moya Pons will offer closing remarks.

Background on the Working Group

The Inter-University Program on Latino Research Working Group on the Spanish Caribbean seeks to establish Spanish Caribbean studies as an acknowledged, institutionalized, and well-funded academic area of study in the United States to support scholarly research, to expand regular course offerings, and to advance the development and dissemination of research publications and presentations in the field.

It was established in 2010.  Dr. Hernández, director of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, serves as chair.  Other members of the group are:

  • Dr. Sherrie Baver, professor of political science, CCNY;
  • Dr. James Biles, associate professor of sociology, CCNY;
  • Dr. Jorge L. Chinea, associate professor of history and director, Center for Chicano-Boricua Studies, Wayne State University;
  • Dr. Ada Ferrer, professor of history and director, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, New York University;
  • Dr. Alejandro de la Fuente García, UCIS research professor of history, University of Pittsburgh;
  • Dr. Gabriel Haslip-Viera, professor and chair of sociology, CCNY;
  • Dr. Félix Matos Rodríguez, President, Eugenio María de Hostos Community College;
  • Dr. Edwin Meléndez, professor of urban affairs and planning and director, Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College;
  • Dr. Marisel Moreno, assistant professor of Spanish, University of Notre Dame;
  • Dr. Lisandro Pérez, professor and chair, Latin American and Latina/o Studies, John Jay College;
  • María Elizabeth Rodríguez, vice rectora, Instituto Global de Altos Estudios en Ciencias Sociales (IGLOBAL);
  • Dr. Francisco Scarano, professor of history, University of Wisconsin;
  • Anthony Stevens-Acevedo, assistant director, CUNY Dominican Studies Institute;
  • Dr. Richard Turits, associate professor of history and director, Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program and Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan;
  • Dr. Carlos Vargas-Ramos, research associate, Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College.

CUNY DSI Contact:
Altagracia Diloné Levat, 347.739.7664,

On the Internet:

CUNY Dominican Studies Institute

Spanish Caribbean Conference

Inter-University Program for Latino Research



Ellis Simon
p: 212.650.6460