Reception; Film Screening to Kick-off Somos Nós Educator Institute

All members of the community are warmly invited for welcome drinks to kick off the 2016 Somos Nós: Diverse Brazil summer educator institute.  The reception will be hosted at Vanderbilt University with light appetizers and wine, and will be followed by a film screening of the film Central Station.  This event is free and open to the public.Brazil Institute

Sunday, June 12, 2016
Buttrick Hall, Vanderbilt
5:00pm Reception
5:45pm Film Screening


View the Brazil Institute Website to learn more about the teacher institute and to register!




In Walter Salles’s ”Central Station,” a hit at Sundance and the winner of top honors at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, a cynical, joyless woman crosses paths with a lonely young boy. There’s plenty of room for sentimentality here, but the wonder of Mr. Salles’s film is all in the telling.

Beautifully observed and featuring a bravura performance by the Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro, it gracefully watches these oddly paired characters develop a fractious bond that winds up profoundly changing both of them. Mr. Salles’s background as a documentary filmmaker also gives this lovely, stirring film a strong sense of Brazil’s impoverished rural landscape once its principals take to the road.

Vinicius de Oliveira was a 10-year-old shoeshine boy when he encountered Mr. Salles at an airport and asked the man to help him buy a sandwich. Now he movingly plays the child named Josue who is foisted by fate onto this irascible older woman. Ms. Montenegro’s Dora is a former schoolteacher who earns her living writing letters for the illiterate at the Rio de Janeiro railroad station of the title. She spends all day listening to the heartfelt thoughts of strangers, writes them down and then makes cruel fun of them when she gets home. After joking about the letters with her kinder friend Irene (Marilia Pera of ”Pixote”), Dora never bothers to mail them. Then a letter by Josue’s mother permanently alters Dora’s world.

With suspicious little Josue in tow, the mother dictates a beseeching letter to her absent husband, then leaves the station and is killed by a bus. Suddenly, the boy knows no one and has no place to go. Despite her hardened bitterness and obvious loathing for children, Dora grudgingly takes him home, where Irene finds Josue adorable and is happy to help him. But Dora has other plans; she wants to sell Josue to an adoption racket and effectively trade him in for a new television set.

This scheme subsequently gets Dora into so much trouble that she abruptly decides to leave town. And she agrees to take Josue on a wild goose chase in search of his father, whom the boy says is a carpenter named Jesus. These are the events that send ”Central Station” off into the countryside, and take both these hard-bitten travelers into parts unknown.

Mr. Salles brings great tenderness and surprise to the events that punctuate this odyssey, from the boy’s drunken outburst on a bus to Dora’s shy flirtation with a trucker she meets along the way. By the time the travelers are caught up in a religious pilgrimage, the film has taken on a Felliniesque sense of spiritual discovery just as surely as Ms. Montenegro resembles Giulietta Masina in both feistiness and appearance. Her performance here is superbly modulated as Dora begins rediscovering herself in ways she could never have expected. Though eternally gruff, she finds herself regaining a long-lost faith in life and in the very humanity she scorned when those letter writers came her way.

The film eventually views these strangers’ faces in the rapt, joyous spirit that is the story’s greatest reward and that becomes Dora’s saving grace. And it is the filmmaker’s elegant restraint that makes such sentiments so deeply felt. Mr. Salles directs simply and watchfully, with an eye that seems to penetrate all the characters who are encountered on Dora’s and Josue’s journey. His film is also scored with a gentle piano melody that intensifies its embrace of the world that ”Central Station” sees. 

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Comes to Vanderbilt

Sonia headshotThe Center for Latin American Studies and Peabody College’s Department of Teaching and Learning are proud to welcome Pulitzer-prize winning author Sonia Nazario to Vanderbilt University March 29-30, 2016. Nazario will speak about her book “Enrique’s Journey” as well as current issues regarding immigration.

Sonia Nazario is an award-winning journalist whose stories have tackled some of this country’s most intractable problems — hunger, drug addiction, immigration — and have won some of the most prestigious journalism and book awards.

She is best known for “Enrique’s Journey,” her story of a Honduran boy’s struggle to find his mother in the U.S. Published as a series in the Los Angeles Times, “Enrique’s Journey” won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2003. I was turned into a book by Random House and became a national bestseller.

Her recent humanitarian efforts to get lawyers for unaccompanied migrant children led to her selection as the 2015 Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award recipient by the Advocates for Human Rights.  She was also named a 2015 Champion of Children by First Focus and a 2015 Golden Door award winner by HIAS Pennsylvania.

Nazario, who grew up in Kansas and in Argentina, has written extensively from Latin America and about Latinos in the United States. She has been named among the most influential Latinos by Hispanic Business Magazine and a “trendsetter” by Hispanic Magazine.  In 2012 Columbia Journalism Review named Nazario among “40 women who changed the media business in the past 40.”

She is a graduate of Williams College and has a master’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of California, Berkeley.  She has honorary doctorates from Mount St. Mary’s College and Whittier College. She began her career at the Wall Street Journal, and later joined the Los Angeles Times. She is now at work on her second book.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016CLAS Sonia Nazario JPG
Peabody Dean’s Diversity Lecture Series

11:45 a.m. Talk and Lunch Reception
RSVP Required here
Wyatt Center Rotunda

Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Public Lecture and Reception

5:30 p.m. Talk and Q&A
7:00 p.m. Dinner reception
Casa Azafrán

Wednesday, March 30, 2016
MNPS Presentation and Book Signing

9:00-10:30 a.m.
Martin Luther King Magnet School

Publicity Flyer for these events here

For more information, please contact

Sustainable Partnerships for Latin American LCTLs through Distance Learning

March 17-18, 2016

Organized and sponsored by the Centers for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University and the University of Utah, the goal of this workshop is to promote the creation of sustainable academic year programs in less commonly taught languages (LCTLs) of Latin America through course sharing using distance-learning technology. Presentations will outline successful partnership strategies for and challenges to distance LCTL instruction, and networking sessions will offer participants the opportunity to identify potential institutional collaborators. The workshop will be held at Vanderbilt University in Nashville March 17-18 2016.

Students from Vanderbilt, the University of Virginia and Duke University share a teleconferenced course on K'iche' Mayan.
Students from Vanderbilt, the University of Virginia and Duke University share a teleconferenced course on K’iche’ Mayan.

Rationale: Institutions struggle to establish and maintain high quality and robust academic year LCTL programs. Low enrollments threaten financial viability of these programs, and the scarcity of qualified and experienced native-language instructors limits their number. Longstanding programs have relied on U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships and National Resource Center (NRC) funding, which have supported LCTL instruction for decades. Given the precarious state of federal funding for international education, and the uncertainty of any single institutional FLAS award, even well-established LCTL programs remain at risk. Moreover, traditional models to deliver language instruction fail to address student access, including community colleges, Minority Serving Institutions, and other non-NRC institutions. Distance-learning technology now provides the opportunity to advance instruction of LCTLs nationwide through course sharing between US institutions.

Is this meeting for me? This workshop is intended to provide information and tools to administrators to decide whether they can develop programs for the instruction of LCTLs through distance learning.


For more information about this workshop visit:

See this workshop featured in the Vanderbilt University News here

Questions of Memory and History in Cuba and Sierra Leone

Emma Christopher they are we workshopOn February 8, 2016, CLAS welcomed Emma Christopher from the University of Technology Sydney to Nashville to present alongside screenings of her critically acclaimed documentary film They Are We. The film highlights the proud members of a small Afro-Cuban ethnic group in Central Cuba, the Gangá-Longobá, and how they became reconnected with their distant relatives and ancestors in Sierra Leone.

CLAS hosted a Black History Month educator workshop for K-16 teachers about integrating film, Afro-Cuban history, culture and identity into the classroom. Teachers attended a screening of They Are We, followed by a dynamic presentation from the filmmaker Emma Christopher entitled “Questions of Memory and History in Cuba and Sierra Leone,” which is available through CLAS Podcasts.  Jane Landers, Vanderbilt historian and director of the Ecclesiastical and Secular Sources for Slave Societies Digital Archive (ESSS), shared “Preserving Cuba’s African History Digitally.” Language Technology Specialist from the University of Oregon and CLAS Advisory Board Teacher, Stephanie Knight, shared free, interactive resources for use in the classroom.

Later that same day, the film was screened at Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center Auditorium followed by a reception. This event was sponsored by the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, Circum-Atlantic Studies Seminar, the Center for Latin American Studies, the Department of History and the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center.

Third Wave Coffee: The Changing Faces of Production and Consumption


Nashville has become a hub for a new generation of “third wave” coffee houses. A panel will look at the production of high-end coffees in Guatemala and Nicaragua as well as trends in retail coffee as exemplified by Barista Parlor.



Bradley Wilson, Dept of Geography, University of West Virginia
Daniel Reichman, Dept of Anthropology, University of Rochester
Bart Victor, Owen School of Management, Vanderbilt University
Ted Fischer, Center for Latin American Studies, Vanderbilt University
Tom Eisenbraun, Barista Parlor

Thursday, February 11, 2016 5:30-7:30

Barista Parlor Golden Sound
610 Magazine Street
Nashville, TN 37203

Event Flyer

See photos from the event here

VIDEO: Making a Difference In Latin America

NI_vucast_studentSee how undergraduates and grad students work side-by-side with faculty to help solve problems and make a difference in Latin America. From a new product to combat malnutrition in children in Guatemala to a low-cost capsule for stomach cancer screening to preserving the history of slave societies, Vanderbilt helps find solutions, makes discoveries and changes lives. Vanderbilt ranks in the top 5 in the nation for Latin America studies programs.

Read More

Politics, Poetry, and the First Latin American Pope

NI_vunews_cardenalOne of Latin America’s greatest living poets, Father Ernesto Cardenal, delivered a public talk on “Politics, Poetry, and the First Latin American Pope” at the John Seigenthaler First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt on Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 5:30 p.m.

Cardenal, an acclaimed Nicaraguan poet, revolutionary and liberation theologian, discussed his latest published anthology of poems, 90 en los 90, social justice and liberation theology, and Pope Francis.

Cardenal is the author of more than 35 books. He was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1965 and went on to become an important leader in the Sandinista revolution. He served as minister of culture in Nicaragua from 1979 to 1988. He founded a communal society constructed on the principles of liberation theology for artists in the Solentiname Islands located in Lake Nicaragua.

Cardenal’s visit was sponsored by Vanderbilt University’s Center for Latin American Studies and the Divinity School.

“Ernesto Cardenal embodies the ideal of the Third World/Global South intellectual in a distinctly religious key: a highly creative artist in his areas of work, literature and the visual arts; a determined critic in society and culture, from the local to the global; and an unflinching voice in matters religious and theological, both within his church and at large,” said Fernando Segovia, Oberlin Graduate Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Vanderbilt.

“For Spanish Americans, poetry is a part of their daily existence, and few writers bring together everyday struggles and poetic transcendence as well as Ernesto Cardenal,” said Cathy Jrade, Chancellor’s Professor of Spanish. “Father Cardenal’s work speaks to the many overlapping efforts made at a university like Vanderbilt to challenge assumptions, engage the mind and elevate the spirit.”

Potholes, Parks, and the PRI: One Reporter’s Understanding of the Mexican Drug Wars

NI_vunews_quinonesIn October 2013, CLAS hosted a visit by Sam Quinones, Los Angeles Times journalist and creative author of nonfiction (Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream and True Tales from Another Mexico: The Lynch Mob, the Popsicle Kings, Chalino, and The Bronx). While in Nashville, Quinones was featured in on- and off-campus events. During a CLAS-sponsored brown-bag lunch, he spoke with graduate and undergraduate students about his personal and professional experiences working on the topic of the Mexican drug wars. Off campus, at Casa Azafrán Community Center, Quinones delivered a public lecture entitled “Potholes, Parks, and the PRI: One Reporter’s Understanding of the Mexican Drug Wars,” which attracted a crowd of more than 180. While at Casa Azafrán, Quinones also met with young Latino writers who recently won a Hispanic Heritage Month essay contest titled “My Hispanic Roots, My American Dream” and sponsored by Conexión Américas.

New volume on Race and Access to Higher Education In Brazil

Over the past ten years Vanderbilt has hosted a series of FIPSE/CAPES exchanges with Brazilian universities focused on comparative issues of race.  History graduate student Max Pendergraph has compiled a collection of essays from these student projects looking at how affirmative action programs play out in Brazil, a country with its own long and tumultuous history of racialized misunderstandings. This impressive volume is available free in e-book format.