March 04, 2015

Faculty Share Insights on Cuba

After months of negotiations mediated by Canada and the Vatican, President Barack Obama announced on Dec. 17 that the United States and Cuba were moving toward normalized relations, which would include lifting travel restrictions, imposing fewer limitations on remittances, allowing U.S. banks access to the Cuban financial system, and establishing the first U.S. embassy in Havana since 1961.

Beloit’s faculty and staff possess significant expertise on Cuba, including Beatrice McKenzie (history), Elizabeth Brewer (director of International Education), Oswaldo Voysest (Spanish), and Pablo Toral (political science). In January, the group hosted a discussion on campus titled “U.S.-Cuba Relations: History and Recalibration.”

Each panel member had participated in a Beloit College delegation that visited Cuba in January 2014. Additionally, McKenzie, Voysest, and Toral have all made independent visits to the Caribbean island.

The group covered topics ranging from the reactions on both sides to normalized relations, to foreign policy, to expected opportunities for educational exchange. Brewer said that the Office of International Education is already fielding requests from students who wish to study in Havana.

The panel also discussed the high quality of education in Cuba and the country’s literacy rate, which is nearly identical to that of the United States.

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