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Release: Sept. 27, 2001

UI, Grinnell host symposium on Cuban arts, culture and politics Oct. 4-6

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A symposium on "Culture, Politics and Change in Contemporary Cuba" will bring the Cuban experience to Iowa City and Grinnell Oct. 4-6. A group of Cuban intellectuals, Cuban-American scholars, recent Cuban exiles and other Cuba experts, as well as the UI-Grinnell Bridging Project group, will gather for three days of presentations, panels and frank discussions.

"Cuba-US relations have been troubled for more than 40 years, with a lack of real dialogue between the parties," says Daniel Balderston, chair of the UI department of Spanish and Portuguese and primary symposium organizer. "This symposium provides an opportunity for lively dialogue on a variety of issues related to arts, culture and politics in Cuba today."

Balderston says the symposium will bring together an unusually diverse group of Cuban and Cuban-American intellectuals. He adds that this will offer a unique opportunity for the UI community to learn more in-depth about many facets of Cuba. All activities are free and open to the public.

Anton Arrufat will deliver the keynote address Thursday, Oct. 4, at noon in the International Center Lounge. Arrufat is a Cuban writer and winner of the National Prize for Literature 2000. His famous play, "Los siete contra Tebas (Seven Against Thebes)," an adaptation of the Aeschylus tragedy to the Cuban situation, won a major literary award in Cuba in 1968 but has never been performed there because of its controversial nature.

The symposium includes presentations and discussions all day Thursday, Oct. 4 and Friday, Oct. 5 at the International Center Lounge. Special evening activities include a performance of "Milk of Amnesia" by Cuban-American performance artist Alina Toyano, Oct. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Riverside Theater, and a concert by the Cuban musician Frank Delgado Friday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. in the Wheel Room of the Iowa Memorial Union. On Saturday, Oct. 6, there will be a full day of activities at Grinnell College.

Troyano, known for her celebrated character Carmelita Tropicana, is famous in New York performance art circles (and nationally) for her sparkling wit, her bilingual and bicultural crossings, and her campy performance style. She has won Obie awards and has performed widely. Many of her writings and scripts are reproduced in her recent book.

Delgado is a celebrated musician and is well known in Cuba for his corrosively ironic lyrics. An heir to the Cuban – nueva trova (new song) – movement and to the ironic tradition of Pedro Luis Ferrer, he performs more frequently outside Cuba, mostly recently in Mexico, Chile and Spain than inside, though a concert of his at Casa de las Americas in Havana was packed in June.

Some of the other speakers include Ruth Behar, a professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan and author of "Translated Woman." Behar is also a Macarthur Award winner. Other speakers include Roman de la Campa, a professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature at Stony Brook, and author of important books such as "Cuba on My Mind and Latin Americanism"; Jose Quiroga, associate professor of Spanish at the George Washington University and author of "Tropics of Desire"; and Damian Fernandez, professor of international relations at Florida International University and author of Cuba and Politics of Passion.

At UI and Grinnell there will be readings by prominent Cuban poets and fiction writers. Most of the presentations will be in Spanish.

Balderston said the conference evolved from The Bridging Project, which took three UI faculty, two UI graduate students, three Grinnell faculty and two Grinnell undergraduates to Havana in June, after a semester of readings and discussion. The result was a series of conversations with a variety of Cuban intellectuals, some very prominent, others younger and just emerging, and provided a very fruitful dialogue.

At the University of Iowa, the symposium is sponsored by Latin American Studies Program, the department of Spanish and Portuguese, the International Writing Program (IWP), the Stanley-UI Foundation Support Organization, International Programs, and the UI Campus Activities Board. At Grinnell College, sponsors include the Program in Latin American Studies, the Rosenfield Speakers Fund , Academic Speakers Fund, Grinnell College, and Student Organization of Latino/Latinas (SOL). Additional funding of spring and summer 2001 activities were provided through the Grinnell College and University of Iowa Bridging Project for International and Interdisciplinary Studies.

All UI activities except the evening performance will be held in the International Center Lounge. Many events are in Spanish only.

For a complete schedule of events, more information or for those who require special accommodations in order to participate, call Renee Wieler at (319) 335-0368 or send e-mail to