Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

"Saludos desde San Jose!" written by Jack Mace

By Annie Gibson

I am handing over my blog on the CIAPA Experience to the students participating in the program. This way you all can have a better idea of what life is like for a student at CIAPA. This blog entry is written by Currin Wallis. She is a freshman student who has begun her first semester of Tulane at CIAPA in Costa Rica 2012. Pura Vida, Professor Gibson

Jack’s Blog:

Saludos desde San Jose! Greetings!

Hello. I am writing this blog entry from my dorm room, room 205, which sits on the top floor of a large, hotel-like building on the joint Tulane — CIAPA campus in San Jose, Costa Rica. This building is where us Tulane students spend a lot of our time: studying for our various classes, eating, and sleeping, in that order of importance. The time as of now is 2:30 pm, on a Tuesday, October 7. Around me sits piles of essays and sketches strewn across my desk, and in front of me, pinned to a drawing board, is the schedule of my classes for the Fall 2012 Semester, which I double-check constantly out of forgetfulness. If I were to turn around and look out my open door, I would see the miniature rainforest that covers the CIAPA campus, and farther on, a towering golden “M”, for McDonald’s, back-dropped by the rolling, tropical-green hills and mountains that surround the city of San Jose. As I write this, the city is alive with a heavy rain, and thunder rumbles fiercely overhead, as it does almost every afternoon in this place. My name is Jack, and I’m one of the students studying at CIAPA in San Jose, Costa Rica.

As a student here at CIAPA, there is much and more to do, and almost everything we do is tied together with our studies. During the week my five other peers and I go about our daily business: going to class, taking the bus into San Jose, making our way to the local gym of which we have been granted membership, personal trainers, and thumb-print recognition access. Fellow gym members, most of them young, will often greet us with a “pura vida”, or “pure life”, a saying that Ticos (Costa Ricans) are fond of as both greetings and farewells.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, we visit two respective high schools in San Jose and work with English classes there. The last time we visited, we played the Spanish version of Scrabble with the class, and the next two hours saw countless conversations in Spanglish about life in general. The group that connects us with these schools is called the Youth Action Foundation, and it works with high schools all over Costa Rica to improve the quality of education for kids in primary and secondary school.
The rest of the week is spent studying and reading for our busy class schedule, which includes topics like Comparative Politics, Central American Government, and Latin American Art History. All of the classes are humanities, and I miss science, but they blend into such a cohesive study of Latin America — specifically Central America — that I often find myself forgetting which class I’m studying for. Weekends are usually a time to break free from the week’s routine and travel around the area, but occasionally we head out on organized, group weekend trips. So far these trips have led us to the cloud forests of Monteverde, white-water rafting in the mountains of Rara Avis, and, in the future, to the Caribbean beaches of the city of Limon. Again, I can’t express enough the beauty of this place.

Over the course of my stay here, I’ve made attempts to define the identity of this place called “Rich Coast”, and I have found it to be very difficult to pinpoint. Instead, flashes of inspiration will come to me in certain moments, much like the silent flashes of lightning that, late in the night, briefly illuminate the dark masses of mountains that surround CIAPA. I once watched out of a bus window as a series of young people marched on the street, banging unceremoniously and without rhythm on drums; this was Costa Rica. On one of our many weekend trips as a group, we visited the cloud forest of Monteverde, and were able to walk amidst and listen to the forest come alive with rain in the night; this was also Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s identity is hard to define, but I’ve come to the conclusion that Costa Rica is a proud country: proud of its natural splendor, proud of its history as one of the leading countries in Central America in political and economic stability, and proud of its happy people. At the same time, globalization and foreign influence have done their deeds, and Costa Rica’s identity is now attempting to cope with things like a beautiful, unique tropical bird perched on a giant, humming McDonald’s arch. Unfortunately that is only one of many examples of identity crisis. But this brings me to the National Theater.

When the United States was undergoing Industrialization, there began a large movement of appreciating and in turn depicting the vast, previously untouched nature of North America that was now being taken for granted. The United States has its Hudson River Painters, and Costa Rica has the National Theater in San Jose.

While it may be a bit of an overstatement to compare these two countries in terms of rejuvenating the appreciation for the national environment, it is certainly undeniable that both played, and are playing a part in the conservation of national identity when it comes to natural splendor. The National Theater is a huge building at the center of the Plaza of Culture in San Jose, which in turn is in the center of the city. The Plaza was originally built around the Theater, which was one of the first buildings to arise in the area, tall and majestic, dwarfing the one-story colonial homes it stood amidst at the turn of the 20th century. Now it stands as a cultural center for both locals and tourists. On the two occasions I’ve been to the theater (both of which played notable substitutions for our actual Tulane Interdisciplinary class), the shows seemed to emanate an irresistible love affair between Costa Rica and its people.
The first show was a performance by the Jazz pianist Chucho Valdez and his band, the Afro-Cuban Messengers. The performance was impossible to describe with words, but I can say that it gave me a newfound appreciation for Latin American music. When I got back to CIAPA I immediately downloaded all of Valdez’ music from “iTunes”. The performance was also unique in that involved the crowd pretty vehemently. Towards the end the band had everyone in the theater dancing, singing, and clapping. I can’t say for sure that this is a Costa Rican quality, but I can say that I would rarely see that in Seattle, Washington (where I’m from).

The second performance celebrated an anniversary of the Theater, and involved three separate acts of dance. Throughout the show we saw naked women and men running around attempting not to conform to society; a man and a woman falling in and out of love with fiery Latin flare; and a slow, ritualistic dance with big jungle cats, lots of water, and artificial steam and bird noises. All of these acts shared the same quality of attempting to celebrate Costa Rican culture, and by the end, it had succeeded at least with me. Of course, I acknowledge that these performances are filtered from real experiences with these aspects of Costa Rican culture, but when it was over I at least had the feeling that I knew Costa Rica a little better.

In conclusion, come to Costa Rica, but don’t go to college here — there are too many distractions. While you are here, please visit the National Theater.

Pura vida,

Jack Mace


  • Annie Gibson

    Administrative Assistant Professor - Department of Global Education





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Upcoming Events

Latin American Studies Pre-Professional Alumni Speaker Series

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Each year in association with LAST 4000, the capstone seminar for graduating seniors in Latin American Studies, we invite recent graduates to speak about their current employment and the path that took them there—and to give advice to students soon to hit the job market. We invite all students to attend these informal discussions.

Speakers will speak at 11:00 a.m. for 45 minutes to an hour. Out of courtesy for the speaker and the class, we ask that guests arrive on time and stay for the entire presentation. Speakers will also speak in the 9:30 session, but will begin later. If you would like to attend this section or would like additional information, contact Edie Wolfe at ewolfe@tulane.eduu

Thursday, September 17
William Faulkner (2009), Director, Flux Research, Monitoring and Evaluation; formerly i2i Institute and Plan Políticas Públicas, São Paulo, Brazil. Flux is a consultancy focused on research, monitoring and evaluation that links those spearheading social change with the social sciences approaches, methods, and services required to evaluta operations and impact. After graduating in 2009, Will completed at masters in Latin American Studies at the Stone Center and went on to work as a researcher and evaluation coordinator with a similar organization in São Paulo, Brazil.

Tuesday, October 6
Katie Gray (2013) formerly Accounts Representative, Latin America and Brazil accounts, Intralox. Intralox is the world leader of modular plastic conveyor belts located in Hammond, Louisiana. Katie worked for several years as their tri-lingual Spanish and Portuguese speaking Account Representative, providing service support to Customers in Latin and South America.

Thursday, October 8
Bianca Falcon (2013) Chief of Staff, Republíca LLC. República, LLC is a privately held national advertising, branding, promotions, digital media and public relations company headquartered in Miami, Florida. República is a minority owned and certified company that ranks among the Top 50 U.S. Hispanic Agencies

Tuesday, October 20
Allison Bakamjian, (2010) Program Services Manager, Shanti Project’s Women’s Cancer Program, San Francisco; formerly Peace Corps Education Specialist, Santa Marta, Colombia. Prior to her Peace Corps volunteership, Allison worked with AmeriCorps*VISTA as the Volunteer Supervisor working with New Orleans Outreach and local public schools.

Thursday, October 22
Christine Sweeney (2010), Cybersecurity Policy and Program Analyst, Office of Management and Budget, Executive Office of the President; formerly Program Officer, Latin America and the Caribbean, International Republican Institute. In her position with the IRI, Christine managed democracy and governance programs in Venezuela and Ecuador, helping to cultivate relationships with field-based and international implementing civil society partners and local political stakeholders to carry out the program objectives of promoting democratic transparency throughout the region

Tuesday, Nov. 17
Michael Murray (2010), Senior Consultant, FSG. FSG is a mission-driven consulting firm for leaders concerned with social change. Mike will discuss his work with the organization, including his research in Chile for a collaborative report on how local companies can increase competitiveness and profitability by helping to solve social problems such as poverty, education, and health.

Tuesday, Dec. 1 (To be confirmed)
Amanda Parker (2007), Project Manager & Trainer for Agriculture & Sustainable Land Use, World Wild Life Fund. Amanda works primarily in South America, specifically Paraguay managing and coordinating conservation projects in the Pantanal and Atlantic Forest Eco-Regions.

Thursday Dec. 3 (To be confirmed)
David Klauber (2008) Emergency Child Production Specialist, Save the Children. Most recently David worked as a volunteer program manager and grant-writer for the Unión de Agricultores Minifundistas, an association of organizations working on grass roots development de Guatemala in Guatemala City.. David will speak primarily about his experience with Save the Children in refugee camps on the Ethiopian-Somali border

Shango: Winter Music Festival

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Shango is a collaborative musical program featuring New Orleans’ own Bill Summers and Afro Cuban Master Dance Artist, Michelito Herrera Perez.

This event is free and open to the public. It is a collaboration between Xavier University’s African American and Diaspora Studies Program, XUTULAC and Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies. For more information please contact Dr. Sarah Clunis at or call: 504- 520-5020.

Photographic Exhibition "Precision"

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The Consulate of Mexico in New Orleans is proud to present a photographic exhibition, “Precision,” by Mexican artists Luis Arturo Chacon. There will be an opening reception on November 12th at 6 PM. For more information, visit the Consulate webpage.

Casa Borrega's 5th Annual Latin Jazz Fest

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Casa Borrega will host its Fifth Annual Latin Jazz Fest on Friday, December 11, 2015, from 7pm to 2am at the People’s Health New Orleans Jazz Market, 1426 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, a state of the art performance venue – ideally suited for this event. Deep roots connect the Crescent City with Latin America from Jelly Roll Morton’s “Latin Tinge” to newly formed musical entities that will be performing at this festival. Many longtime local musicians have made Latin Jazz a way of life and Casa Borrega celebrates this choice and artistry at its annual event. A new addition to the Fest is a multi-national ensemble of talented dancers who will perform throughout the evening.

7pm – Muevelo Tribute : Tito Puente & Celia Cruz
8:45pm – Javier Gutierrez & VIVAZ!
10:30pm – Alexis Guevara Afro Cuban Trio
12:15am – Latin Dance Party with DJ

  • Salsa dance demonstrations throughout *

Food by Casa Borrega & cocktails at the Bolden Bar
Tickets: $20 – available at
1/2 off for students with valid ID at the door

Hope to see you there! For further information please don’t hesitate to contact Linda Stone, 504.292.3705 or Hugo Montero, 210-392-9365 or email or visit

La Hora del Cuento: Bilingual Story Time at the Pebbles Center Uptown

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Join the Pebbles Center at the Children’s Resource Center branch of the New Orleans Public Library for bilingual story time.

Held the second Monday of every month at 5:15 PM, we will read a book and have a craft based on the book. Past books include Dear Primo, ‘Twas Nochebueno, and Call Me Tree/Llamame Arbol.

Story Hour Books
Oct. 12
Funny Bones by Duncan Tonatiuh
Celebrate Halloween and Day of the Dead with this story time!

November 9 ­
María Had a Little Llama by Angela Dominguez
Learn about Peru and the Andean highlands through the eyes of Maria and her llama!

December 14
Martín de Porres by Gary Schmidt
Learn about this important Saint and his role in helping the poor!

Ancient Maya Women: A K-16 Educator Workshop

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LARC, in conjunction with the Annual Tulane Maya Symposium and the New Orleans Museum of Art, is hosting a teacher workshop on the ancient Maya. The workshop will introduce information on women in the ancient Maya world as well as providing activities to introduce into the classroom. Check back soon for more information.

To register, visit the Maya Symposium Registration page.