Tech infuses campus with Latin America

March 26, 2009

by Amy Olita

The Office of Academic Affairs and the International Education Committee will host “Shaping the 21st Century: Focus on Latin America” this quarter.

Throughout the spring quarter, faculty and students will host several events including films, speakers, exhibits, concerts and festivals highlighting the many different parts of Latin American culture.

Taylor Mack, assistant professor of geography, presented the video “Popol Vuh: Sacred Book of the Quiche Maya” last Thursday afternoon in the International Student Office at the kick-off event for the “Focus on Latin America.”

“‘The Popol Vuh’ is probably the most important Native American text in existence,” Mack said. “The scope of ‘Popol Vuh’ begins with the Quiche Maya creation story and runs to the Colonial period.”

Mack said it is important to learn about Latin America because it is the closest world region to America, yet its culture is very different.

“Most Americans have a very distorted view of Latin America, often thinking it is all like the border region between the U.S. and Mexico or Cancun,” Mack said. “However, within each country in Latin America there are many different cultures.”

He said he feels Latin America has been overlooked in government issues.

“Economically and politically much of Latin America has been tied to the United States, and often in ways that have hurt the people in the region,” Mack said. “Americans often do not know these economic and political ties, and hence do not understand the negative consequences for Latin Americans.”

Dianne Douglas, a retired Tech professor of Latin American literature and Spanish, said she thinks the “Focus on Latin America” is a terrific opportunity for Latin America to gain recognition in a good way.

“[This event] is very timely,” Douglas said. “Because of the many concerns in foreign affairs in Europe and the Middle East, often Central America is forgotten unless there is a crisis.”

She said it is important for people to realize that the countries of Latin America are, in fact, very different.

“While there is some commonality between the countries, their cultures are very diverse,” Douglas said. “Each country has its own unique character.”

Nicholas LeBlanc, a graduate student of history, said the film shown combines many ideas of creation, including Christian creationism and evolution.

“This particular event will give students a broader understanding of cultures that aren’t necessarily learned in school,” LeBlanc said. “By understanding the religions of other people, [students] will be able to open their minds to understanding other cultures as a whole.”