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The Fifth Annual Penn in Latin America and the Caribbean (PLAC) Symposium was held virtually this year in three thematic sessions on three consecutive days: Wednesday, September 30 through Friday, October 2. Each session began at 12:00 pm and ended by 1:30 pm.
The PLAC Symposium is held annually to highlight Penn work in the region, as well as to support networking opportunities for attendees and co-presenters. At this year's virtual Symposium, each day centered around a major theme and featured Penn community members who work in the Latin American and Caribbean region. They presented briefly on their studies/areas of expertise. A single Q & A session, moderated by a member of the PLAC Steering Committee, took place after all presentations had been made. We had very lively meetings: Check out their recordings below!
Wednesday, September 30, 2020: Symposium Opening
12:00 pm: Arrivals
12:10 pm: Opening Remarks
Wendell Pritchett, University Provost
Wednesday, September 30, 2020: Session I: Social -- Cities, Economics, Politics, Law, and Education
12:15 pm: Moderator’s Introduction
Emilio Parrado, Dorothy Swaine Thomas Professor of Sociology; Director, Population Studies Ctr
12:20 pm: Presentations
- An Immune System for the City: A new approach to controlling Chagas disease in Arequipa, Peru
Michael Levy, Associate Professor in Biostatistics, Epidemiology & Informatics, Perelman School of Medicine
In Arequipa, Peru the UPenn/UPCH Zoonotic Disease Laboratory is working with the Ministry of Health to control Chagas disease, canine Rabies and bed bugs.
- The Water System in Western Puerto Rico: Determining Vulnerabilities in a Changing Climate
Alana Paccione, Department of Earth and Environmental Science, CAS
This presentation will focus on water accessibility issues in Puerto Rico's western region due to climate change, and offer recommendations for mitigation. Alana’s overall research project evaluates the region’s current water infrastructure and its flaws, and highlights its resulting effect on community life in rural and urban areas.
- Asylum from Central America
Fernando Chang-Muy, Thomas O’Boyle Lecturer in Law, Carey School of Law
This presentation will cover the U.S. definition of a refugee, and reasons why individuals from Central America leave their countries of origin and seek protection in the U.S.
- Reporting on the Venezuelan Crisis
Patrick Ammerman, MSW, Alumnus of School of Social Policy and Practice / 2019 PLAC Pulitzer Center Student Fellow
Patrick Ammerman was the recipient of the 2019 PLAC Pulitzer Center Student Fellowship. He traveled to Colombia, where he interviewed recently arrived Venezuelan immigrants and refugees on themes ranging from health to employment to legal status. Patrick will share his key findings from the trip.
- Out of sight, out of mind? Spillover Effects and the Pacifying Police Units (UPP) in Baixada Fluminese
Maria Francesca Arruda de Amaral (C’20), Department of Criminology and International Relations
This presentation explores the unintended consequences of the Pacifying Police Units initiative in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It intends to show how crime may have been displaced to other areas of the state, mainly the neighboring region of Baixada Fluminense.
- Corporate Transitional Justice: Lessons from the Brazilian Experience
Eduardo Saad-Diniz, Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Law, University of São Paulo, campus Ribeirão Preto; Latin American and Latinx Studies (additional bio here)
Problematic accountability and corporate complicity with authoritarian regimes are frequently neglected in Latin American Studies. The current research aims to define what and how could be a next generation of transitional justice studies, based in the idea of holding corporations accountable for their support of atrocities and systematic human rights violations. The research also has a secondary purpose of raising the moral voice of the private sector against the rise of authoritarian trends in Latin America.
- A Snapshot of the Menstrual Movement in Latin America
Becca Bean (C’21, W’21), The Huntsman Program, Wharton
Menstruation, particularly the menarche, has become an increasingly common topic of discussion among researchers and activists in Latin America and the Caribbean. This coupled with exposed and increased inequalities as a result of COVID-19 has helped bring about activism surrounding shattering stigma, policy change, and prioritizing especially vulnerable menstruators. This presentation will discuss each of these menstrual justice methodologies with examples from Mexico, El Salvador, and Chile.
- Thinking Similarly, Operating Differently: The Cuban State and SNET's Approach to Technological Sovereignty
Mariela Morales Suárez, Annenberg School for Communication, CARG, Graduate Student
This presentation will cover how the state and local tech communities in Cuba are approaching and conceptualizing the notion of technological sovereignty and how they are deploying it through the practice of formal and informal societal roles.
- The Marginal Returns on Distance Education on Achievement: Analyzing Mexico’s Telesecundaries
Gabrielle Vasey, PhD Candidate, Economics
The transition between primary school and middle school can be challenging for students in developing countries, especially those in rural areas with limited access to middle schools. In Mexico, distance education schools called Telesecondaries offer a solution, however little research has been done on their quality. We estimate the marginal effects of attending a Mexican Telesecondary school on 7th grade Math and Spanish test scores. We find positive treatment effects of Telesecondaries on achievement, but these estimates mask considerable heterogeneity.
- Inter-American Educational Leadership Network (RILE)
Ivan Rosales Montes, Alumnus of the Graduate School in Education
The Inter-American Educational Leadership Network (RILE) is a collaborative initiative focused on promoting educational improvement in school organizations in Latin America and the United States. It is currently made up of the faculty of education of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, the Graduate School of Education of the University of Pennsylvania, the department of education of the Universidad Católica de Uruguay and the faculty of education of the Universidad Católica de Córdoba, Argentina. Through these institutions, RILE offers various training opportunities and conducts research and development initiatives.
Thursday, October 1, 2020: Session II: Scientific – Science, Technology, and Health
12:00 pm: Arrivals
12:20 pm: Presentations
- Penn Nursing - 30+ Years of Collaboration with the World Health Organization
Antonia M. Villarruel, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor and Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing;
Director of World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Nursing and Midwifery Leadership
Penn Nursing has been a designated WHO Collaborating Center (CC) for more than 30 years. The focus of our CC is in the PAHO region and specifically in advancing leadership in nursing and midwifery. Our current commitments include work in Nicaragua to reduce maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality, in Suriname to increase nursing capacity in healthcare provision, and throughout the region advancing nursing doctoral-level education.
- Service Learning: Clinical Care…Health Promotion…Popular Education in Guatemala
Mamie Guidera, MSN, CNM, FACNM, Penn School of Nursing, Family & Community Health
Penn Nursing has led educational exchange in Guatemala and Honduras for more than ten years. Students engage in health promotion and clinical care in Santiago Atitlan and gain more than they give through this experience. They work with local midwives, public health nurses, and hospital personnel. They also offer health education to school-age children and teens, using popular education techniques.
- Community Health Needs Assessment in Bienvenido, Dominican Republic: Analyzing the social determinants of health in global, low-income Hispanic communities
Cassidy Gallagher, Undergraduate Senior, School of Nursing
This research project focused on identifying the social determinants of health that affect globally low-resourced Hispanic communities. The study took place in the town of Bienvenido, an impoverished ‘batey’ community in the Dominican Republic, in collaboration with the local nonprofit organization, The Bienvenido Project. A community health needs assessment was conducted through door-to-door surveys to identify the most common diseases among residents and their social determinants.
- An Adaptive International Cardiology Curriculum accessible by remote distance learning (iCARDs-Haiti)
Norrisa Haynes, MD, MPH, Cardiology Department
As a cardiology fellow, I have developed a cardiology curriculum for the internal medicine (IM) trainees in Haiti in partnership with the IM chief residents at Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais (HUM). Given the increasing burden of cardiovascular disease throughout the Caribbean region, and the dearth of cardiologists, we partnered with local Haitian physicians and developed a sustainable, capacity –building cardiology curriculum for the IM residents at HUM. By combining the local expertise and experience of Haitian cardiologists with the recommended American College of Cardiology (ACC) core training competencies, we have developed a lecture series that utilizes a videoconference platform for curriculum delivery. We have demonstrated a quantifiable impact on the education of HUM’s IM trainees. With pre and post-survey assessments, we have demonstrated the efficacy and utility of our curriculum. We hope to empower and educate change agents who will implement this training and provide the best possible medical care within the constraints of locally available resources.
- Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP) and Chilean Longitudinal Social Protection Survey (SPS)
Irma T. Elo, Professor & Chair, Sociology
As is well-known, the world population is aging rapidly in most developing as well as developed countries. The composition of health issues is also changing rapidly, with relative increases in non-communicable diseases relative to communicable and infant and maternal diseases. Among the rapidly increasing non-communicable diseases, Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) are increasing in importance, but relatively little is known about factors that contribute to ADRD outside North America and Europe. And there are basic problems in measuring cognitive aging in population-based surveys, which are starting to be addressed in the United States and a few other countries (including Mexico) through the National Institute of Aging (NIA) – supported development of the Harmonized Cognitive Assessment Protocol (HCAP). Investigation of factors that contribute to cognitive aging in other rapidly-aging countries is important for greater understanding of changing global health. Our collaboration with the Centro de Encuestas y Estudios Longitudinales (CEEL) de Universidad Catolica de Chile will lay the foundation for investigation of cognitive aging in Chile, with its relatively high proportion of aging persons, by combining the HCAP survey instrument with unusually rich longitudinal data over ~15 years available in the Chilean Social Protection Survey (SPS).
Hospital Quality of Care and Productivity in Chile
Eileen Lake, Jesse M Scott Endowed Term Chair in Nursing and Health Policy; Associate Director, Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research Biobehavioral Health Sciences Department, School of Nursing
In this U.S.-Chile research collaboration, funded partly by the Penn Global fund, hospital performance in relation to nursing resources was studied in a national sample of 40 hospitals in Chile. Utilizing a methodology that has informed policy change globally, the RN4CAST-Chile project included surveys of patients and nurses as well as patient hospitalization record data. The study produced important and actionable findings that hold promise for improving the outcomes of Chile’s public health services.
- Affordable Robot and M-health Technologies for Neurorehabilitation in Jamaica
Michelle Johnson, PhD, Associate Professor, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation; Director, Rehabilitation Robotics Lab
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in Jamaica. We have been working with Universities and Rehabilitation Entities in Jamaica to use robots, wearable and mobile technologies to support rehabilitation of people after stroke. I will present three key activities we have completed in the research and the STEM education realm.
- Penn LRSM collaborations with: University of Puerto Rico in Humacao during the last 22 years, And with the Sociedad Dominicana de Fisica
Jorge J. Santiago-Aviles, Emeritus Faculty, Electrical and Systems Engineering
The materials research center at Penn, LRSM and the Singh Center, have been collaborating with the University of Puerto Rico Humacao campus for nearly two decades through a series of NSF grants . We reported in last year PLAC , but new developments related to the Hurricane Maria and the sequence of Tremors during the last two years have resulted in new initiatives that might have affected the research and educational topics of common interest.
Friday, October 2, 2020: Session III: Cultural – Arts, Culture, and Humanities
12:00 pm: Arrivals & Introduction
Scott Moore, Director of China Programs and Strategic Initiatives, Penn Global
12:05 pm: Welcome
Amy Gadsden, Associate Vice Provost for Global Initiatives
12:20 pm: Presentations
- Discriminatory Discourse and aggressive language in digital communication in Brazil
Mércia Santana Flannery, Ph.D, Senior Lecturer/Director of the Portuguese Language Program, Romance Languages/Hispanic and Portuguese Studies Department
This presentation addresses the prevailing use of discriminatory discourse and aggression in digital communication in Brasil.
- The Debate Over the Legalization of Abortion: Audience Responses in Argentina
María Celeste Wagner, Ph.D. Candidate & CARGC Fellow, Annenberg School for Communication
In 2018, the Argentine congress debated for the first time in history a bill to legalize abortion. Given the role different public actors have in shaping debates and opinions among the citizenry, I conducted interviews in order to assess publics’ perceptions of the role of the media and of feminist activism weeks after the Senate narrowly rejected the bill. My findings shed light on publics’ opinions on the role of the media as information providers and opinion formers, gender differences in communication styles across actors, feminist activism, and overall perceptions of the social debate in a perceived polarized environment.
- Latin-Centric Indigenous Networks and the Call for a Pluriversal Internet
Fernanda R. Rosa, Postdoctoral Fellow, Annenberg School for Communication, Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC)
This research examines the emergence of internet shared networks in Tseltal and Zapoteco communities in Oaxaca and Chiapas (Mexico) in which indigenous people shape their own digital citizenship and become codesigners of the global internet. It reveals how these communities participate in internet infrastructuring, building indigenous networks from scratch along with the electromagnetic spectrum, towers, radio antennas, houses rooftops, routers, cables, and what these devices and artifacts enact and constrain. Oriented by science and technology studies (STS) and the ethnography of infrastructure methods, the paper discusses how Tseltal and Zapoteco emancipatory and self-sustainability values motivate their actions while being challenged by the commercial values of big internet service providers at the very moment of network interconnection. This research adds to the understanding of infrastructure visibilities, showing how they occur when internet infrastructure is paradoxically absent.
- The Politics of (Mis)Recognition: Guyanese Hindu Parades in New York City
Rupa Pillai, Senior Lecturer, Asian American Studies Program
In Queens, New York, Caribbean Hindu parades are held twice a year to render the Indo-Caribbean community legible to the State. Through strategic performances, this new immigrant community negotiates their religion, ethnicity, and race to claim belonging to the United States. However, as I will argue, the growth and increasing visibility of these parades ultimately results in misrecognition, an outcome with troubling ramifications.
- Historicizing the Caribbean in Ana Lydia Vega’s “Encancaranublado”
Isabella Pilotta Gois, Alumna, Department of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory
This presentation focuses on “Encancaranublado,” a short story written by Puerto Rican author Ana Lydia Vega. It will address the ways in which history acts as a grounding force in the narrative, mainly through the use of allegorical, stereotypical characters and highly allusive language.
- Archival Shadows in Post-Emancipation Puerto Rico
Daniel Morales-Armstrong, Joint PhD Student, Africana Studies and History
By looking at archival documents from a small, sugar-producing town in southern Puerto Rico, my research elicits insights about the Black Puerto Ricans’ responses for the unfreedom that followed the abolition of slavery in 1873. These findings complicate prevailing scholarly narratives about the transition from slavery to free labor on the island and in the Spanish Caribbean. The project highlights how a focus on the hyper local can fill gaps in the scholarship about global policy and historical production within the Spanish empire at the end of the 19th century.
- Reconstructing the Population History of Mexico & The Caribbean
Theodore Schurr, Ph.D, Professor, Anthropology
In this talk, I will discuss our anthropological genetics investigation into the genetic ancestry of Dominican populations. Based on the DNA results and community engagement on issues of ancestry and origins, we gleaned new insights about the human settlement of the Dominican Republic (Hispaniola) and the construction of Dominican identity.
- A Heritage Preservation and Community Development Project in Tihosuco, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Richard M. Leventhal, Professor, Penn Anthropology, Director, Penn Cultural Heritage Center Penn Museum
For the past 9 years, Penn has been a partner in a large-scale community development and heritage preservation project in the modern Maya community of Tihosuco, Quintana Roo, Mexico. The heritage is focused upon the story and physical remains of the 19th century Caste War with an associated development of small-scale tourism within Tihosuco controlled by members of the community. This presentation will present the development and progress of the project and our local partners.
- Graduate Student Work on the Tihosuco Heritage Preservation and Community Development Project
Samantha Seyler, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology
Following the introductory presentation on the Tihosuco Heritage Preservation and Community Development Project, this talk will highlight specific work being conducted by current and former Penn graduate students. This presentation will discuss subprojects focused on archaeological remains, colonial structures, and oral histories in Tihosuco.
- Imagining Charlie Chaplin in Revolutionary Cuba
Will Schmenner, Lecturer, History of Art
Unexpectedly, Charlie Chaplin became the unofficial (and then official) mascot of the Cuban National Cinema Institute (ICAIC). I will trace this development and use it to expand upon Ana López's idea of a porous national cinema.