Although students may think they know about Cuba, in reality it is often buzzwords like “the Cuban missile crisis” and “Fidel Castro” that come to mind when the average individual thinks about this country. The Cuban American Student Association (CASA) hopes to educate the Boston College community about Cuban culture, history, cuisine, and politics in order to help add depth to those buzzwords and correct many of the misconceptions and preconceived notions students may have about the country.
“Our main mission is to teach the BC community the social, political, and cultural aspects of Cuba in the present and the past,” said Brenda Rojas, CASA president and A&S ’14.
CASA uses both educational events, such as political speakers, and more casual ones, such as Cuban cooking classes, so that BC students can get a sense of Cuban life from varying angles.
“We have always been big on collaborations as a club because we think it is important to not just stay within the Cuban community at BC but to expand our horizons,” Rojas said.
One example of this type of collaborative event is the Hispanic or Latin American potlucks, where organizations like the Caribbean Culture Club, the Brazilian Club, and the Organization of Latin American Affairs each bring dishes of special cultural foods to share with other members.
CASA is also very involved in the Translating Cuba project, wherein students gather together to help translate the Spanish works of Cuban bloggers into other languages so they can be read around the world.
“We go into blogs where Cuban activists and political writers are writing, but a lot of it is in Spanish,” Rojas said. “So what we like to do is translate all those blogs that are in Spanish into different languages so everyone in the world can read their work. Their blogs and articles are about Cuban life today, so a lot of the writers are risking their life everyday to write this kind of material. We just give them that extra push.”
Political events are something that CASA feels very strongly about, as its members want to present an accurate and real perspective on the situation in Cuba. In the past the club has brought both Fidel Castro’s daughter and granddaughter to speak on campus about the social and political conditions on the island.
On Monday, March 24 in Gasson 100, CASA will be hosting one of its biggest speakers of the year, Humberto Fontova-a famous Cuban-American author, blogger, and political commentator.
His most recent book, which he will be speaking about at the event, is Exposing the Real Che Guevara: And the Useful Idiots who Idolize Him, which critiques the sensationalism that has developed around the figure of Guevara and shares personal accounts of families who worked while affected by
“He will touch on the book and what inspired him to write it, as well as personal accounts and details about his transition to America from Cuba,” Rojas said. “The primary goal of this event is to expose BC students to the truths and myths about Che Guevara. He is a public icon, I guess you can say, as he is sprawled all over t-shirts and mugs in every country. We just want to make clear to students the true historical facts.”
Rojas explained why CASA was particularly interested in bring Fontova in as one of its keynote speakers for the year.
“‘He is a very famous speaker and individual where I am from in Miami,” Rojas said. “A lot of his theories and opinions are of hot debate at the current moment. I wanted to expose him to a different side of the country because the Northeast area may not know of him very well. I wanted to bring his political ideas here.”
Rojas also has personal connections to Fontova’s works, as personal stories from members of her family are featured in his newest book.
“I knew there was a connection to my family that was very interesting,” Rojas said. “I wanted to meet him, as he did write about my family and personal stories that my parents had always told me about. It is interesting to see that in a book that is out in the public.”
A question-and-answer session will follow Fontova’s talk, and students will also have the opportunity to purchase his book in the BC Bookstore.
By bringing speakers like Fontova to campus, CASA hopes that the BC community will have a better sense of the history and people of Cuba.