Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Punching Above Your Weight in International Affairs

By Ludovico Feoli

At a recent event in San José co-hosted by CIAPA, the newly elected president of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, presented his vision of a foreign policy for his administration. One may question the relevance of the subject for such a tiny player in the global sphere, with only 52,000 square kilometers, four million inhabitants, and no army. But the fact of the matter is that the country has historically played an outsized role in international affairs, punching well above its weight.

Standing up to the Reagan administration in the late 80s it helped broker the peace process that ended the Central American wars. It later spearheaded an initiative at the United Nations to regulate the international trade of small arms that culminated in the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty by the General Assembly in 2013. The country has twice occupied a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council. It is recognized for its leadership in international environmental policy, being among the first to negotiate debt for nature swaps and establish a large-scale program of payments for ecological services. It is also recognized for its respect for, and leadership in, the field of human rights, and serves as the host for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

This active international profile has been informed by close adherence to a set of core values: disarmament, denuclearization, the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and respect for human rights and the environment. By enhancing the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s â’‘¬Å“soft powerâ’‘¬Â such a stance has enabled it to act as a â’‘¬Å“moral powerâ’‘¬Â on the world stage. Yet the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s bearing has also been pragmatic, embracing early adherence to GATT and global integration, for example, and being the first country in Central America to recognize the Peopleâ’‘¬’“¢s Republic of China. Because Costa Ricaâ’‘¬’“¢s â’‘¬Å“realist idealismâ’‘¬Â has been path breaking in these ways the new presidentâ’‘¬’“¢s foreign policy vision may therefore be of more than just local interest.

In fact, President Solís is not complacent about the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s recent international profile. He made the case for a better articulation of its foreign policy. Latin America, in his view, has not to date been treated as the strategic space it is. Costa Rica has focused, historically, on its relations with Central America, the United States and Europe. Only a few Latin American countries have commanded attention, and then but insufficiently and inconsistently. Solís proposed Costa Rica should be an â’‘¬Å“impactful actorâ’‘¬Â, constructing a regional dialogue about security, climate change, human rights, migration, socio-economic equity, and trade and investment. These last two areasâ’‘¬‘€trade and investmentâ’‘¬‘€have commanded too much attention from recent governments, in his view, and, while important, he believes they should be driven by the broader political considerations of foreign policy, and not the other way around.

While recognizing the importance of a Latin American focus, the President understands the region to be diverse and believes that policy should be tailored accordingly. He distinguishes four sub-regions with different relevance for national interests. First is Central America, the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s natural geographic and historic reference point. But he proposes that this region should extend to the Caribbean Basin, his second sub region, incorporating not only its insular territories, but also those of important countries on the coastal areas, like Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela. Third is North America, understood not merely as the United States, but also Mexico and Canadaâ’‘¬‘€all countries with which Costa Rica already maintains meaningful and fruitful relations. The fourth sub region is South America, which he sub-divides into the Southern Cone and the Andean Region. Relations with these countries have been the least active but hold great potential, particularly in the case of Brazil.

Where does this leave the United States? The President acknowledged the long history of positive, albeit sometimes tense, relations with the U.S., which is currently also the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s leading trade and investment partner. He expects this to continue, but not at the expense of the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s autonomy. In line with his vision of a realist idealism, he wishes to stir clear from positions that, for the sake of alignment, would limit the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s freedom of action. This would be true in general, not merely for the U.S. For example, he distanced himself from U.S. regional security policies, which he considered to be â’‘¬Å“militarizedâ’‘¬Â, but he also announced that Costa Rica would not be joining Venezuelaâ’‘¬’“¢s Petrocaribe.

Indeed, Solís vowed to follow a â’‘¬Å“pluralisticâ’‘¬Â approach to regional relations, one that recognizes the inherent value of the different integration institutions in the region, and defends their relevance. The CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which excludes the U.S. and Canada) will have pride of place, given that Costa Ricaâ’‘¬’“¢s pro-tempore presidency provides a unique opportunity to exert the kind of leadership the President advocates. However, he does not believe that the Organization of American States should be written off. As the historical repository of inter-American integration and international law it must, in fact, be defended. But insofar as its political functions have been displaced to other fora this should be recognized as part of the new regional reality. As should be the fact that the U.S. can no longer strong-arm regional actors or inhibit the presence of extra hemispheric ones.

The SICA (Central American Integration System) will also be a focus of attention for the President, given its relevance to Costa Rica. The country has tended to retract from a full engagement with its Central American peers and the President believes it is time to change this, making the country a pacesetter for the sub-region. He pledged to pursue SICAâ’‘¬’“¢s next Secretary General post for a Costa Rican, from which vantage point he would seek to reform and update the institution.

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Out America (ALBA) will also merit attention and consideration, although they will not be central. Solís seemed less enthusiastic about the Pacific Alliance (PA), an integration effort spearheaded by Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Chile, and eagerly embraced by his predecessor. Primarily a trade block, the PA exemplifies Solísâ’‘¬’“¢ concern about trade driving foreign policy priorities. While not dismissing the relevance of trade or the potential of the PA, he suggested it should be pondered carefully, respecting the concerns of Costa Rican productive sectors. This in turn reflects the Presidentâ’‘¬’“¢s ideological convictions that the state should play a more important role in guiding the economy, a central theme throughout the campaign in the run-up to his election.

In sum, the Presidentâ’‘¬’“¢s foreign policy will be, in his own words, a form of â’‘¬Å“conservative inter-Americanismâ’‘¬Â and â’‘¬Å“progressive neostatismâ’‘¬Â. It will be principled, in that it will continue to be inspired by the ideals of disarmament and denuclearization, human rights, environmental stewardship, and equity. It will be pragmatic, focusing on those geographical regions and partners that have greatest potential for the country and actively promoting its interests and defending its rights. It will be pluralistic, engaged with international institutions to the extent that they fit the countryâ’‘¬’“¢s needs. And it will be integral, not surrendering policy to particular objectives, like trade and investment, or conceding the directive prerogatives of the state to the forces of the market.

Whether this will enable Costa Rica to continue punching above its weight in international affairs remains to be seen. But the President has articulated a comprehensive vision for a foreign policy which he clearly believes will do so.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Ludovico Feoli

    Permanent Researcher and CEO, CIAPA, Executive Director - Center for Inter-American Policy and Research at Tulane University

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Storytelling in the Language Classroom K-12 Educator Workshop

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This online workshop focuses on books for the Spanish language classroom and highlights interdisciplinary connections for the language, arts and science classrooms. Increase the diversity of books in your school library with these stories from Latin America.

Registration closes on February 12, 2021.

The pandemic this past year has challenged educators in unimaginable ways. Learning environments have been reinvented as teachers constantly struggle to connect with students in meaningful ways. This presentation shows how storytelling can create learning environments that nurture as well as educate.

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of education, entertainment, and cultural preservation. Given its natural and universal appeal, storytelling can be particularly valuable as an instructional strategy in the language classroom. Attendees will learn how to harness the benefits of storytelling, from creating a more nurturing learning environment that encourages active participation to increasing verbal proficiency among all students.

The presenter, an award-winning children’s books author and teacher, will provide examples from her own books and classroom.

Registration is $10 and includes a copy of a book presented, ready-made lessons to introduce into your teaching, and a certificate of completion. Confirmation of your registration will be sent via email within 2 days to provide access to the Zoom Workshop. Space is limited.

REGISTER TODAY TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT! Deadline to register is February 12, 2021

Sponsored by Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Pebbles Center in partnership with the New Orleans Public Library.

For more information, please call 504.865.5164 or email crcrts@tulane.edu.

Laura Anderson Barbata: Transcommunality Exhibit K-12 Educator Orientation

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Join us for an evening with Tom Friel, Coordinator for Interpretation and Public Engagement as he walks through an innovative tool developed to share the Newcomb Art Museum’s latest exhibit, Laura Anderson Barbata: Transcommunality. The program is designed to introduce K-12 educators to Laura Anderson Barbata’s work and focus on specific elements of the exhibit that connect deeply to the K-12 classroom. While the exhibit is open to limited public access, it plans to open to the public and school visits by Fall 2021. Educators from across the country will find this online introduction to Barbata’s work a valuable resource as the virtual exhibit serves as a unique tool for online learning.

Read more about this exhibit from the Newcomb Gallery of Art About the Exhibit page below:

“The process-driven conceptual practices of artist Laura Anderson Barbata (b. 1958, Mexico City, Mexico) engage a wide variety of platforms and geographies. Centered on issues of cultural diversity, ethnography, and sustainability, her work blends political activism, street theater, traditional techniques, and arts education. Since the early 1990s, she has initiated projects with people living in the Amazon of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Norway, and New York. The results from these collaborations range from public processional performances, artist books and handmade paper, textiles, countless garments, and the repatriation of an exploited 19thcentury Mexican woman ‘€” each designed to bring public attention to issues of civil, indigenous, and environmental rights.

In Transcommunality, work from five of Barbata‘€™s previous collaborations across the Americas are presented together for the first time. Though varying in process, tradition, and message, each of these projects emphasize Barbata‘€™s understanding of art as a system of shared practical actions that has the capacity to increase connection. The majority of the works presented are costumed sculptures typically worn by stilt-dancing communities. Through the design and presentation of these sculptures, Barbata fosters a social exchange that activates stilt-dancing‘€™s improvisational magic and world history. At the core of this creative practice is the concept of reciprocity: the balanced exchange of ideas and knowledge.

The events of this past year ‘€” from the uprisings across the country in response to fatal police shootings to the disproportionate impacts of Covid-19 among Black and brown communities to the bitter divisiveness of the 2020 presidential election ‘€” have renewed the urgency for Barbata‘€™s multifaceted practice. In featured projects such as Intervention: Indigo, participants from various backgrounds reckon with the past to address systemic violence and human rights abuses, calling attention to specific instances of social justice. In The Repatriation of Julia Pastrana, Barbata‘€™s efforts critically shift the narratives of human worth and cultural memory. The paper and mask works presented in the show demonstrate the impact of individual and community reciprocity, both intentional and organic. Through her performance partnerships in Trinidad and Tobago, New York, and Oaxaca, represented throughout the museum, onlookers are invited to connect to the traditions of West Africa, the Amazon, Mexico, and the Caribbean and the narratives these costume sculptures reflect on the environment, indigenous cultures, folklore, and religious cosmologies.

By encouraging diverse collaborators to resist homogenization and deploy the creative skills inherent to authentic local expressions and their survival, Barbata promotes the revival of intangible cultural heritage. Transcommunality horizontally values the systems of oral history and folklore, spirituality, and interdisciplinary academic thought that shape Barbata‘€™s engaging creations, celebrating the dignity, creativity, and vibrancy of the human spirit.”

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An Evening with Multi-Award Winning Author Elizabeth Acevedo

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Join us for an evening with Elizabeth Acevedo. Acevedo presents her third book, Clap When You Land, and discusses her writing process and performance background. The discussion will be followed by a reading.

Poet, novelist, and National Poetry Slam Champion, Elizabeth Acevedo was born and raised in New York City, the only daughter of Dominican immigrants. She is the author of Clap When You Land, (Quill Tree Books, 2020); With the Fire On High, (Harper, 2019); the New York Times best-selling and award-winning novel, The Poet X. (HarperCollins, 2018), winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Young Adult Fiction, the 2019 Michael L. Printz Award, and the Carnegie Medal; and the poetry chapbook Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths. (YesYes Books, 2016), a collection of folkloric poems centered on the historical, mythological, gendered and geographic experiences of a first-generation American woman. From the border in the Dominican Republic, to the bustling streets of New York City, Acevedo’s writing celebrates a rich cultural heritage from the island, inherited and adapted by its diaspora, while at the same time rages against its colonial legacies of oppression and exploitation. The beauty and power of much of her work lies at the tensioned crossroads of these competing, yet complementary, desires.

This online program is free and open to the public. It is part of our ongoing series of public engagement programs with Latinx writers that explore Latin America, race, and identity. Read more about Acevedo’s work in this recent article from The Atlantic.

Sponsored by the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Newcomb Institute.

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For more information, please email crcrts@tulane.edu or call 504.865.5164.

Global Read Webinar Series Spring 2021

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The Stone Center for Latin American Studies coordinates the annual CLASP Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature and is excited to collaborate with other world area book awards on this exciting online program. Join us this spring 2021 as we invite award winning authors to join us in an online conversation about social justice, the writing process and an exploration of culture and identity across world regions. This annual Global Read Webinar series invites readers of all ages to join us as we explore books for the K-12 classroom recognized by world area book awards such as the Africana Book Award, the Américas Award, the Freeman Book Award, the Middle East Outreach Council Book Award, and the South Asia Book Award.

Each webinar features a presentation by an award-winning author with discussion on how to incorporate multicultural literature into the classroom. Be sure to join the conversation with our webinar hashtag #2021ReadingAcrossCultures.

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SPRING 2021 SCHEDULE – Read more about the program here.
All webinars are at 7:00 PM EST.

  • January 12 – The Américas Award highlights the 2020 Honor Book, The Moon Within by Aida Salazar
  • February 3 – The Children’s Africana Book Award highlights the 2020 book award winning, Hector by Adrienne Wright
  • March 11 – The Middle East Outreach Award presents 2020 Picture Book award winner, Salma the Syrian Chef by Danny Ramadan, illustrated by Anna Bron
  • April – Freeman Book Award, a project of the National Consortium for Teaching Asia will present a book TBD.
  • May 13 – South Asia Book Award presents The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

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All sessions are free and open to the public. All times listed refer to Eastern Standard Time (EST). Sponsored by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs, the South Asia National Outreach Consortium, the Middle East Outreach Council, and African Studies Outreach Council, The National Consortium for Teaching about Asia.

Reading Latina Voices Online Book Group for High School Educators

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This spring 2021 we invite all K-12 educators to join us once a month in an online book group. This past year has been a challenging one for everyone but especially K-12 educators. Sign up and join us as we explore the stories of women confronting identity as Latinas in the United States. Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies, AfterCLASS and the New Orleans Public Library partner to host this online book group. The books selected are recognized by the Américas Award and focus on the Latina experience. The group begins with the work of award-winning author and poet, Elizabeth Acevedo who will speak in a unique online format on March 23rd presented by Tulane University’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies and Newcomb Institute.

You have the option of registering in two methods:

  • A) $15 includes your own complete set of books for the series mailed to your home;
  • B) Free – you find your own copies of the books at your local library.

REGISTRATION DEADLINE IS JANUARY 29, 2021

Reading Schedule – Thursdays at 6:00 PM CST

  • February 11 – Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • March 18 – The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • April 15 – American Street by Ibi Zoboi
  • May 13 – The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano

Sponsored by AfterCLASS and the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University and the New Orleans Public Library.

Central America, People and the Environment Educator Institute 2021

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This summer educator institute is the third institute in a series being offered by Tulane University, The University of Georgia and Vanderbilt University. This series of institutes is designed to enhance the presence of Central America in the K-12 classroom. Each year, participants engage with presenters, resources and other K-12 colleagues to explore diverse topics in Central America with a focus on people and the environment. It is not required to have participated in past institutes to join us.

While at Tulane, the institute will explore the historic connections between the United States and Central America focusing on indigenous communities and environment while highlighting topics of social justice and environmental conservation. Join us to explore Central America and teaching strategies to implement into the classroom. This year’s institute will be a blended online learning environment incorporating both asynchronous and synchronous sessions. All synchronous activities occur between 4 – 7 pm CST Monday through Thursday.

Early registration is now open and will end on May 3, 2021. Early registration is $15. Starting May 4 registration will increase to $30. AfFor more information, please email dwolteri@tulane.edu or call 504.865.5164.

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