Screen readers: Two navigational links to follow.Skip to site navigation.Skip to page content.
The University of Iowa News Services
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 27, 2007

Ida Beam Scholar to discuss U.S.-Cuban relations, democracy in Latin America

Louis A. Pérez Jr. (photo, left), one of the most distinguished Caribbean scholars in the United States, and J. Carlyle Sitterson professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will visit the University of Iowa Wednesday, Oct. 10, through Friday, Oct. 12, as an Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor.

His visit will include the following two lectures: "Cuba and the United States: From Cultural Engagement to Political Conflict" at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, in Room 315, Phillips Hall; and "Democracy in Latin America: Between Expectations and Experience" at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, in the International Programs Commons, Room 1117, University Capitol Centre (UCC). Both lectures are free and open to the public.

Pérez's first lecture deals with the historical antecedents of the Cuban revolution, with particular attention to the role of cultural engagement as a source of social tension and political change. The Cuban experience offers a potential paradigm in understanding the relationship between normative systems, or values, and systems of domination, or power. The second lecture discusses the implications of U.S. relations with Latin America around the issue of democracy, with an emphasis on the relevance of North American initiatives of democracy to Latin American reality.

"After 45 years of Fidel Castro's socialist rule and the recent transition of power to Raúl Castro, head of the Armed Forces, Cuba finds itself at a crucial historical juncture," said Adriana Méndez Rodenas. Director of the UI Caribbean, Diaspora, and Atlantic Studies Program (CDA) and professor in the UI Department of Spanish and Portuguese in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Rodenas has collaborated with Pérez as member of the editorial board of the journal Cuban Studies.

"Professor Pérez's lectures will illuminate the possibilities for change and continuity on the island as well as address its conflicted relationship to the United States," Rodenas said.

Pérez is most known for his groundbreaking work on Cuban history from the colonial period to the republic. His research spans the 19th- and 20th-century Caribbean, with an emphasis on the Hispanic Caribbean. He has written and edited 15 books and his articles have appeared in the principal journals of the profession. Some of his most influential essays concern analytical approaches to the study of U.S. foreign relations, especially dependency theory and transnationalism.

Among his many books on Cuban history from the colonial period to the republic are "Cuba and the United States: Ties of Singular Intimacy," which traces the history of U.S.-Cuba relations, and "On Becoming Cuban: Identity, Nationality and Culture," which presents a challenging interpretation of American influence on the island and its impact on the formation of national identity. His 2005 book, "To Die in Cuba: Suicide and Society," provides a hard look at the realities of Cuban socialism. Forthcoming is "Cuba in the American Imagination: Metaphor and the Imperial Ethos," a book exploring images of Cuba in the American media and how they shaped perceptions of the island.

As a cultural historian, Pérez has studied the impact of geography on the Pan-Caribbean area, as in his "Winds of Change: Hurricanes and the Transformation of Nineteenth-Century Cuba." His collection of travel writings to the island, "Slaves, Sugar, and Colonial Society: Travel Accounts of Cuba, 1801-1899," and his edition, "Impressions of Cuba in the Nineteenth-Century: The Travel Diary of Joseph J. Dimock," reflect the impact of the sugar industry in Cuba and the entire Caribbean.

Recipient of numerous fellowships, Pérez has served on a number of professional committees, most recently the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Task Force on Scholarly Relations with Cuba, the National Council on United States-Cuban Relations, the Conference on Latin American History, and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS)/the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) Working Group on Cuba. Currently editor of the interdisciplinary journal Cuban Studies, Pérez also heads "Envisioning Cuba," an innovative, multi-disciplinary series at the University of Carolina Press.

For more information regarding Pérez's visit, contact Rodenas at 319-335-2230 or

The UI Office of the Provost sponsors the Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships Program. Additional support comes from UI International Programs, CDA, the UI Department of History, and the Latin American Studies Program, both in CLAS.

The UI established the Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships Program in 1978-79 based on a bequest from the late Ida Beam of Vinton, Iowa, who willed her family farm to the UI Foundation. The proceeds from the farm's sale enabled the UI to establish a fund that brings top scholars in a variety of fields to the university for lectures and discussions.

CDA is part of UI International Programs, which enables UI students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity, and give all university constituents access to vital international knowledge. For more information, visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the UI Office of the Provost.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Adriana Méndez Rodenas, CDA, 319-335-2230,; Kelli Andresen, International Programs, 319-335-2026,; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,; Writer: Lini Ge