CLAIS Spring Semester Highlights Engagement Events with Latinx Community in New Haven
According to the U.S. Census, nearly one-third of New Haven’s population is Hispanic or Latino, yet many local Spanish-speaking community members have not heard of Yale’s Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies (CLAIS) and the numerous Spanish-language academic and cultural events it offers to the public every semester. The Council, which is part of the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale, is working to change that. Through its Latino & Iberian Film Festival at Yale (LIFFY) in fall 2022 and eight community events in spring 2023, CLAIS has expanded its relationships with New Haven grassroots organizations, sponsoring community engagements with two different filmmakers, a visiting scholar of Latin American indigenous languages, a Latina doctor and author, and more.
“I am very happy that CLAIS has doubled its efforts to get closer to the New Haven community this semester,” said Maria José Hierro, Lecturer in Political Science and CLAIS’ Interim Chair for the Spring 2023 semester. “These events are part of the CLAIS outreach goals, which I believe align with President Peter Salovey’s vision to reinforce the Yale-New Haven relationship.”
On March 28, Salvadoran scholar, filmmaker, and organizer Jennifer Cárcamo began her visit to Yale with a community screening of her 2018 documentary Los eternos indocumentados (The Eternally Undocumented) co-hosted by CLAIS and the Semilla Collective at the Bregamos Community Theater in the Fair Haven neighborhood. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, to Salvadoran migrant/refugee parents, Cárcamo is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in UCLA’s History Department and a Visiting Scholar at Rutgers University in the Center of Latin American Studies.
Through interviews with Central Americans who have recently arrived in the U.S. and with community organizers, Cárcamo’s film captures the stories of Central American refugees and explores the root causes of forced migration. Following the film, CLAIS postdoctoral associate María de los Ángeles Aguilar moderated a bilingual Q&A session with the several dozen attendees in which Cárcamo answered questions about her filmmaking process, building trusting relationships with interviewees, and the current state of Central American migrant organizing.
On March 30-April 1, CLAIS hosted renowned Cuban actor and film director Jorge Perugorría at Yale for a retrospective of his 30-year career. Four of his films were screened at Yale: Fresa y chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate), Fátima o el Parque de la Fraternidad (Fátima or Fraternity Park), Se vende (For Sale), and the environmental documentary Los Jardines de la Reina (The Gardens of the Queen).
“I am very pleased with this visit, because it was an opportunity to screen a retrospective of my work,” Perugorría said. “As a Cuban, I am very impressed with New Haven and with Yale University. This place is so full of possibilities! I want everyone to know that Cuba is a marvelous country, and that we [Cubans] have much more in common with the people here than the things that set us apart.”
Perugorría also made two community visits that drew on his wide-ranging expertise. At the Sound School in New Haven, high school aquaculture students screened and discussed Perugorría’s documentary on Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen marine preserve with him. At Arte Inc., a community-based arts program for youth in Fair Haven “dedicated to promoting Latino art, culture, and education,” he spoke to about 80 school-aged children and their parents about his work as a filmmaker. Many recognized Perugorría from his films and asked for his autograph.
“We truly appreciate CLAIS’s ongoing support as we enrich the lives of New Haven’s youngest residents,” said Dave Greco, Arte Inc. co-founder and director. “The students and parents were engaged and found his presentation very interesting.”
“It is always rewarding to bring Latino role models to New Haven,” said LIFFY founder and Executive Director Margherita Tortora. “I love seeing how the children smile and their eyes light up! Dave and Danny do a great job with the Arte Inc. Saturday Academy, and we very much enjoy collaborating with them.”
Américo Mendoza-Mori, Lecturer in Latinx Studies at Harvard’s Committee on Ethnicity, Migration, Rights visited Yale at the end of April. On April 21, he led an interactive bilingual session with about 45 senior Fair Haven residents at the Atwater Senior Center. He presented an overview of Latin American indigenous languages, and how some of the everyday vocabulary of Spanish comes directly Nahuatl, Quechua, and Taíno.
A fluent Quechua speaker, he described Quechua beliefs that uphold the value of the land and of community, and he explained that Quechua and Andean culture, associated in many people’s imaginations with pre-Columbian times, is still spoken and practiced by up to 10 million people living in the Andes region today. A highlight for all came during the Q&A, when an audience member offered to sing one of the Quechua songs she had learned from her grandmother.
Eneida Arroyo, a Puerto-Rican long-time resident of New Haven and the specialist at the Elderly Services Department of the City of New Haven, expressed her gratitude to CLAIS for bringing Mendoza-Mori, to speak with the Hispanic senior residents in Fair Haven. “They all were very excited about his visit and surprised to find out how much they learned about Peru and the Andes,” said Mrs. Arroyo. “After the event, they shared with me their excitement about how Américo took the time to respond all of them and how well-informed his answers were.” Arroyo added that she hopes to partner with CLAIS again in the future to offer more of this kind of programming for New Haven seniors.
In an interview with her publisher, UC Press, Cerdeña said, “Pressing Onward grew out of my longstanding work with migrant communities here in New Haven, first as a clinical student working at a local free clinic and then as an anthropologist. These women disclosed their challenges migrating and living here—including during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—and the powerful strategies they used to get by in the day-to-day. Many women repeated that their stories needed to be told, and that really pushed me to get this book out.”
For more information and upcoming CLAIS community events, visit CLAIS.macmillan.yale.edu.
More information regarding film submissions for LIFFY) 2023 is available at liffy.yale.edu.