Letter to the Caribbean Studies Association
Hello, I am Milagros Martínez, Executive Secretary of the Norman Girvan Chair of Caribbean Studies at the Universidad de La Habana. First of all, my warm regards to my esteemed colleagues at CSA, especially, President Jan DeCosmo, Dwaine Plaza, Anton Allahar and Emilio Pantojas. I convey my most sincere wishes for great success in the 2015 Annual Conference. I also tell you that the “Cátedra del Caribe” had prepared with great expectations to be present at the New Orleans Conference. However, various reasons have impeded the participation of the 10 members of the “Cátedra” that planned to attend. I am confident, nevertheless, that the five representatives in attendance will do superbly.
Besides the panels that we had proposed and were accepted for CSA 2015, I had been invited to participate in the plenary session on “Perspectives on ‘Normalization’ of U.S. – Cuba Relations”. To my surprise, and in spite of the events of last December 17 to initiate the process of normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, I received the unpleasant news that my visa to travel to the US had been denied. The reason given was article 212F, which means that I am considered a threat to the National Security of the United States.
My first reaction was laughter. I, a 65 year old woman, with high blood pressure, pre-diabetic, overweight and with chronic lower back pains, is considered a threat to the national security of the most powerful country in the world. Nonetheless, my initial surprise was followed by indignation, annoyance for hindering me to travel to New Orleans to share with my fellow Caribbean scholar and work on behalf of our beloved Caribbean region.
I wanted you to know this, that my absence in this fortieth Conference of the CSA is against my will. I prefer to use my participation in this plenary session and other panels to exercise my right to protest this great injustice. I believe that situations like this that affect adversely not only me but other Cuban scholars should be disseminated because they are proof that we still have a much to do in order to have normal relations with the United States.
For my part, I assure you that I will continue to request a travel visa to the United States. My work to expand and strengthen academic relations between Cuba and the United States started 38 years ago, in October 1977, when I attended the VII Congress of LASA (the Latin American Studies Association). Since then, there has not been one day when I have stopped promoting exchange projects, seeking funds, organizing events and academic conferences in the Cuba and the United States, particularly with relation to the Cuban presence in LASA.
I conclude by denouncing that the denial of visas on this occasion has affected negatively more than ten young Cubans who wanted to attend the CSA conference. The reason given for denying these visas was that their ages made them potential migrants. Where is the justice in such arbitrariness? Is it the case that young people would not be able to participate in academic exchanges until they turn 35 or 40 years of age?
We hope that better times are ahead. Please disseminate this letter by all means possible, including social networks. And I hope that one of the persons present here can make this letter reach the United States Department of State. I hope, colleagues, that in the future reason will prevail and we shall become “normal”.