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Caribbean Studies Association meeting a big success

By John Collins (1)

More than 300 scholars, including large delegation from Puerto Rico, hail superb leadership, outstanding program and excellent hospitality.

NASSAU, The Bahamas – More than 300 scholars from throughout the Caribbean and from the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Europe and elsewhere gathered recently in the Nassau Beach Hotel for the 27th annual conference of the Caribbean Studies Association, dubbed CSA2002. The theme of the conference was “Coping with Challenge, Contending with Change.”

Welcoming the delegates was CSA President-Elect Ivelaw L. Griffith, the Florida International University (FIU) scholar who hailed the important contributions to CSA2002 of University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Prof. Emilio Pantojas Garcia who chaired the Program Committee, and Prof. Carolyn C.M. Rolle of the College of the Bahamas , who chaired the local host committee.

The CSA first met in San Juan in 1975 and again in 1985 and 1996. Two CSA presidents were Puerto Ricans and two others were residents of the island. The CSA Secretariat has been hosted by Inter-American University in San German for the past 13 years but is now moving to Florida Gulf Coast University.

This was the first time the association met in the Bahamas and the College of the Bahamas and the local host committee received repeated praise from delegates, especially long-time CSA members, some of whom have memories stretching back to its beginning.

Even though the country had held a general election May 2 which resulted in a change in the government, the opening ceremonies were attended by the new Prime Minister Perry Christie, who not only addressed the meeting but later hosted a sumptuous reception at which he personally greeted every attendee accompanied by the New Attorney general and minister of Education Alfred Sears.  A former professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York, Sears introduced the prime minister.

Appeal to academia to participate

In his remarks the new Bahamian leader appealed to CSA members “to take an interest in all aspects of your individual societies and the region and as intellectuals to anticipate, recognize, interpret, analyze and explain the challenges, and help policymakers develop critical and practical policies and programs to cope with them.”

Dame Ivy Dumont, the Governor General of the Bahamas, hosted a lovely reception at her residence for the CSA and Amb. Luigi Einaudi, the assistant secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS), addressed a plenary luncheon about the OAS role in the Caribbean. Also in attendance was [Association of Caribbean States Secretary General Norman Girvan.]     

 Most delegates were hard pressed to recall another annual meeting as well as organized and coordinated. Singled out for particular recognition was the leadership and organizational skill demonstrated by Griffith who graciously recognized the “significant contributions” of Pantojas’ in organizing the best program committee ever.

Pantojas acknowledged the contributions of UPR and FIU. All agreed that what made the Nassau conference better than any other before was the manner in which the Program Committee made a considerable advances in harnessing the considerable scholarly research such meetings produce. A long time complaint has been that, because there are more than 100 papers presented, many simultaneously, it was difficult to collect more than a few papers.

Excellent cooperation between UPR and FIU

This time delegates were in for a surprise, thanks to the cooperation between UPA and FIU. Upon registering each delegate was presented with disc with the program. and, most importantly, 44 of the papers presented. While that still meant that over half of the presenters had not turned in their papers in advance as requested, the vast improvement was hailed by many as a great step forward and a particular challenge for future meetings.

Although collectively CSA members in the diaspora, particularly the U.S. and Canada, are the largest in number, the delegation from Puerto Rico was the biggest in attendance, from the region and, including Puerto Rican scholars in the U.S., numbered more than two dozen. President Griffin hailed the large attendance from Puerto Rico and expressed appreciation to both UPR and Inter-American U. for the considerable resources they extended to the CSA. Other island institutions represented at the conference were Sagrado Corazon University and the Ana G. Mendez System.

While a majority of the papers concentrated on U.S.-Puerto Rican relations and status as well as the Vieques controversy, others addressed Puerto Rico’s role in the region, sustainable development, gender and race issues, the media, etc. Participants from Puerto Rico included Emilio Pantojas, Eduardo Aponte, Juan Manuel Carrion, Humberto Garcia Mu#iz, Juan Manuel Garcia Passalacqua, Jorge Giavannetti, Gilberto Gonzalez, Aaron Ramos and Jose Sequinot, among others.

Honored at the conference was Sybil Farrell Lewis, long time CSA member who died recently in San Juan. The widow of scholar Gordon K. Lewis, Farrell had a distinguished career as an educator and editor at UPR. A native of Trinidad, she lived in Puerto Rico for more than 40 years.

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1) Other articles by the well known Caribbean author John Collins can be read at:

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June 3, 2002


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