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2014/2015 Blog

Welcome to our blog!

CamargoI am Lorena Camargo, your 2014 / 15 LAS blogger. I am going to be recapping all of the engaging events here at LAS for our community of curious students as well as posting about all things awesome. I am a 4th year student at the University of Toronto, completing a double major in International Relations and Latin American Students. Originally from Cúcuta, Colombia, I have a great love and appreciation for Latin American culture and history. I love to read, travel,dance, meet new people, and engage in meaningful conversation. So if you’re ever in need of a reading buddy or someone to sit with over coffee and discuss anything from books to music, I am your person! :)

A Vibrant and Evolving Canadian - Latin American Community

Jasón de León: Undocumented: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail

Susan Antebi: Written on the Skin: José Gomez Robleda and the Prose of Statistics in Post-Revolutionary Mexico

Sr. Embajador Daniel Filmus, Secretario de Asuntos Relativos a las Islas Malvinas: La Cuestión de las Islas Malvinas y la política exterior Argentina

Journalism and Media in Latin America and within Latin American communities in Canada: A Discussion Panel



 A Vibrant and Evolving Canadian - Latin American Community

As results from Statistics Canada show, between the years 2001-2011, the Spanish speaking population in Canada grew 43%, by 263,000 people, during the same time that the overall Canadian population grew 12%. The consequence of these relative growths: the Spanish speaking community now has a bigger presence within the overall Canadian population, becoming a standout factor.

As the latest statistics from 2014 demonstrate, there are 1,645,000 Spanish speakers in Canada, with the majority (over 60%) of this population residing in Ontario and Quebec. It is of a logical sequence then to observe that Spanish is the third most common second- language spoken at home for those under the age of 35 (including native speakers) in the GTA., demonstrating the importance of our native-tongue and the effects it will be having on different aspects of Canadian life: business, culture and community. We are entering into a new phase on Canadian soil where this growing community has an opportunity to grow into something great, and where no attributes should be wasted.

This constant and growing wave of highly skilled Latin American immigrants into Canada has been a recent phenomenon, begun in 1990s, and is one that continues to date. Evolving from a wave of immigrants fleeing from political violence and economic instability in the 1970s and 1980s, to highly educated, hardworking and skilled immigrants that are contributing to the make-up of the Spanish speaking population, we bring to Canada an array of skills, knowledge, ideas and creative ideas for development and growth.

As a result, we are witnessing the emergence of a strong and increasingly organized Latin American community in Canada, with entrepreneurial interests, local business ties, social and cultural links, and a hard working and engaged population. With the growing membership of the Hispanic business community, the number of new digital and print media outlets in Spanish, such as Revista Debate, Avenida Magazine, and Latinos Magazine to name just three, and the increased TV and Radio presence, Latin Americans are making themselves heard and are standing out.

Let’s be proud of our growing community and make it a note to get actively involved in supporting one another. Rome was not built in a day! The Spanish-speaking community is full of intelligent, creative and hardworking people that are capable of establishing a strong and congruent base in this country, one that a growing number of Latin Americans are calling home..





Jason de Leon: Undocumented: Living and Dying in the Migrant Trail

On Wednesday, October 22, 2014, Jason de León joined LAS during one of our engaging and informative Luncheon Series events. Jason de Leon is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, and he recently spent 5 years doing field research in the Arizona / Sorona Desert for his upcoming book.

His talk, titled Undocumented: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail, presented a powerful message of what the illegal migration process entails, the impact it has on the migrants and their families, as well as the political and social implications of this border migration. He shared with us excerpts from his book, talking about his own experiences during the years of field research dealing with migrant death and post-mortem violence, something he was able to study using the concepts of taphonomy and necroviolence.

He explained taphonomy, a concept that proposes how both natural and cultural processes that impact what was once a living organism are also a social process. In other words: How people die, how they are buried in the ground, the things that happen to these corpses, all these are part of a social process and must be confronted when analyzing migrants' death.

He further studies the issue utilizing the concept of necroviolence, which deems the specific treatment of corpses as violent and inappropriate by those who act upon the dead body and those who bear witness to this corpse and such actions.

Using these concepts for his analysis, Jason de Leon explained during his impactful talk how these bodies that die and are left in the desert are direct implications of immigration and political strategies of the U.S, and specifically of the “Prevention Through Deterrence” strategy that the Government of the U.S implements. His talk and his book do not seek to put forth a solution on this issue, for many have been offered and consequently ignored by government policy makers. Instead, what Jason focuses on and what he tried to lay out for us is the present an ever existent paradigm, to lay it out in black and white, to bring awareness to the situation and show how these policies and tax dollars are going towards the violation of the undocumented migrants’ human rights and dignity. These are government strategies that we are all, in some way playing a part in, and what Jason is adamantly trying to do through his work is bring awareness and recognition to these facts so that eventually, a feasible solution can be implemented and these violent treatments of migrants can be halted.

Thank you Jason for an in-depth and eye-opening discussion!





Susan Antebi: Written on the Skin: José Gómez Robleda and the Prose of Statistics in Post-Revolutionary Mexico

Wow! If you missed out on our Luncheon Series, you missed out an insightful talk lead by one of our very own exceptional UofT professors! Susan Antebi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Toronto. She works in the area of contemporary Latin American cultural production and disability studies.

On November 5, Professor Antebi presented her analysis on the rhetorical work of communicating statistical and scientific data to a general public in the context of eugenics and biotypology in Mexico of the 1930s and 40s. In specific, she talked about the work of José Gomez Robleda, a Mexican forensic psychiatrist and ethnologist, who at one point was the director of the Service of Psychophysiology of the National Institute of Psychopedagogy, as well as the author of numerous works of short fiction. Professor Antebi demonstrated how probability and statistics in the discipline of eugenics have come to be identified through the rhetoric through which they work.

This work has become embodied in a statistical prose, awakening emotional responses to these scientific experiments and results from the otherwise lay people who do not have the scientific background necessary to comprehend pure statistical and mathematical data. She explained how during the 1930s in Mexico, in an attempt to make up for the lack of statistical data, this convergence of prose with the statistical and scientific data arose. Precisely through this obsession by the medical experts in Mexico to "ameliorate the race", Professor Antebi explained that in "measuring and trying to improve and get rid of what is not seen as so good in a group… eugenics and statistics came together."

Prof. Antebi described different experiments published by Mexican doctors. A couple of these experiments included Dr. Rafael Santa Marina’s relating physical and psychic characteristics to the educability of kids and Robleda's studies linking facial and physical characteristics of the Tarasco Indigenous people to their behaviour and "disabilities". These experiments represent examples of how this limited statistical data was complemented by rhetorical prose to draw emotional conclusions and was subsequently presented to the general public. They presented statistical models as a way to overcome insufficient data and as a result it became a rhetorical strategy. Using Robleda as the main example of this rhetorical strategy, she explained how he attempted to put forth a scientific project. But in reality, his work put forth a lot of focus on esthetics and serves as a bridge between statistics and esthetics, working to enliven statistics, giving the numbers a face.

According to Prof. Antebi, he achieved this through: • studies in biotypology and range of activities, Robleda employs shift in register from technical to the humanistic, drawing numerical data to emotions they enlisted. • Robleda had been both author of technical books and fiction pieces. He was already thinking about these ideas and their productions before he conducted all these studies…. • His book juxtaposes clinical and technical work regarding morality and esthetics, giving life to information on statistics. • His fiction writing and links to technical work, shows how numerical data acquires dynamic form. This talk highlighted how this statistical prose has left its impact on the scientific world that is still felt today. Many practicing doctors in prominent positions within the Public Health community still turn to Robleda and his work as examples of sound scientific and statistical work , and apply it in the modern world.

Prof. Antebi presents this and leaves us to contemplate how we perceive things, what connections do we attach to certain characteristics or physical traits to different disabilities or diseases? It was definitely an eye-opening discussion, leaving us with a lot of food for though! Thank you Professor Susan Antebi!





Sr. Embajador Daniel Filmus, Secretario de Asuntos Relativos a las Islas Malvinas: La Cuestión de las Islas Malvinas y la política exterior Argentina

On Friday, November 7, LAS co-hosted along with the Embassy of the Argentine Republic in Canada a conference on Argentine foreign policy and some of the issues surrounding the Malvinas Islands. What a wonderful event it was! This issue is a highly complex one, and as a program at the University of Toronto we are not seeking to choose sides. Our objective rather is to support and enable an environment where dialogue is possible and constructive.

The conference held on November 7 was a success in that it brought together both the academic and the Argentine community to discuss how foreign policy has developed regarding issues of state sovereignty, bilateral and multilateral agreements. Perspectives about the social revolution that Argentina is undergoing and the objectives of this current administration were also presented and discussed. Just like most issues in international relations and foreign policy, dialogue is of utmost importance and is necessary to establish a course of action in resolving conflicts. This is what the Argentine government and its public servants are working towards: a call to the British government to dialogue regarding the issue of sovereignty of the Malvinas.

Our speaker, Ambassador Daniel Filmus – current Minister of Affairs Related to the Malvinas Islands – explained how the British were previously open to such dialogues, an attitude that sharply changed after 1980. The Argentines regard this issue as one of great importance, relating to dialogue, dignity, and international cooperation. During this conference, we had the pleasure of hearing Ambassador Filmus explain how the Argentine government’s current foreign policy is focused on consolidating democracy, the promotion of human rights, peace and security, deeper regional integration, and the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. Having those clear objectives and working towards what they are calling a “social revolution” has lead the government to once again put the issue of the Malvinas Islands at the top the list, something that needs to be resolved if sovereignty and territorial integrity, two cornerstones of international law, are to be promoted and maintained. Amb. Filmus presented the attendees with historical information such as a letter from San Martin from 1816 and a list of Spanish governors of the islands from 1764-1811 that demonstrated that the islands had been of Spanish and subsequently Argentine sovereignty before they were taken over by the British in 1833.

Prior to 1980, the British and Argentine government had been negotiating possible solutions regarding the territory, including joint administration and special safeguards for its inhabitants. In 1980, different options were considered. For instance, a lease-back approach which implied a recognition of Argentine sovereignty over the islands on behalf of the British government and a payment to the Argentine government for having a military and political base on the islands. These examples serve to demonstrate that dialogue is possible, and that a solution can and must be reached.

In his address, Amb. Filmus made clear that the Argentine government does not wish to violate the island inhabitants’ right to self-determination and will respect whatever citizenship they wish to maintain. The desire of the Argentine government was portrayed though as to be able to exercise a renewed form of sovereignty over a territory very close to the Argentina shores. Amb. Filmus explained that Argentina has received backing by many regional and international organizations alike such as OAS and CELAC, which have put forth resolutions supporting Argentine sovereignty over the territory and the need for dialogue between the two governments. We hope, as a program that supports stable relations and dialogue, that this conference and post help raise awareness regarding the subject matter. We wish to portray the importance of the need for mutual respect, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Thank you to everyone who attended the event, it was very informative!




Journalism and Media in Latin America and within Latin American communities in Canada: A Discussion Panel

On Wednesday, November 19, LAS held one of its most interactive events of the semester! We were joined by four Latin American journalists working in Canada, who all shared their different career paths, experiences, and advice for those interested in pursuing a career in journalism.

Eva Salinas, Luis Horacio Najero, Isabel Inclán and Gabi Veras made up the panel for our event. What was most interesting was hearing about how their different cultural backgrounds, although mostly an advantage in differentiating themselves amongst others competing for a job opening, could at times work as a disadvantage: not allowing them to move past being a foreign correspondent for a certain country or culture and their desire to broaden their scope as journalists. Regardless, we were exposed to four very different kinds of experiences. Eva Salinas was a foreign correspondent in Chile, working to share relevant Chilean news to the international English-speaking community. Luis Horacio Najera was at one point the national correspondent in Mexico for a very influential newspaper and specialized in reporting on transnational organized crime at the US-Mexico border. He now lives in Canada as a refugee after receiving death threats because of his publications about official corruption, and drug trafficking.

Isabel arrived to Canada 15 years ago and has worked as a journalist with over two decades of experience in both Mexico and Canada. She now works for a Mexican news agency, NOTIMEX in Canada and focuses on news that link both countries and cultures. And lastly, Gabi Veras has spent more than 15 years in newsrooms both in Brazil and Canada. She has been a freelance journalist for CBC Radio and Radio Canada International. She has also worked as a producer for OMNI Television in Toronto and Calgary, bringing both Canadian News to Portuguese speaking people in Canada and Brazilian stories to non-Brazilians in this country.

We touched upon different traits that are necessary and beneficial to succeed as a journalist in the present day multi-cultural Canadian society. These include bilingualism, a cultural sensitivity, and having that sixth sense for knowing what information is newsworthy and relevant to various countries and cultures. We also discussed the importance of building credibility as a journalist, which is achieved through publishing articles, networking, marketing yourself, and having a strong and consistent presence in different events and areas around the different communities.

Ultimately, we talked about the big task we have here as Latin Americans in Canada. As Mr. Najera put it, we have to complete the settlement of a Latin American culture in Canada. This is in order to create a demand and a solid Latin American market so that the government feels obliged to provide better-rounded news. The idea is to keep our rich and diverse culture alive. Currently, we are passing through a moment where Latin American tourism in Canada is growing, and Canadian involvement is evermore present in Latin America within all facets of society. For this reason, we must press on the difficult task of asking for and ourselves being sources of news, spreading knowledge and by doing so increasing interest in our region, companies, products, people and cultures.

It was a great panel discussion! Both panellists and attendees alike were able to share experiences, thoughts and fears in a positive academic environment. I am proud to see our program taking a leading role in providing our students and faculty with great opportunities to discuss such relevant topics. I hope those of you that attended enjoyed the panel discussion as much as I did, and for those who didn’t, join in on our next event and see for yourself how engaging and beneficial our events can be!