Banded Red-bellied Anole

As part of its Conferencias Caribeñas 16, the Institute of Caribbean Studies of the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras (UPR-RP), invites the academic community and the general public the screening of Jürgen Hoppe’s Extinction in Progress—a documentary about Haiti—and a related lecture by Dr. S. Blair Hedges (Laura H. Carnell Professor and Director, Center for Biodiversity, Temple University): “Solving Biological Questions with Historical Maps of Caribbean Islands.”

The screening will take place on Thursday, February 5, 2015, from 9:00-11:30am and the talk will be held from 1:00 to 4:00pm at the Manuel Maldonado Denis Amphitheatre (CRA 108) of the Carmen Rivera de Alvarado Building, School of Social Sciences, UPR-RP.

Screening: Extinction in Progress (Haiti/USA 2014): Director/Director of Photography: Jürgen Hoppe. Producers: Dr. S. Blair Hedges and Jürgen Hoppe. Narrator: Hugh McClellan

As Haiti still struggles to recover from a disastrous earthquake, it faces an even greater problem, the complete degradation of its natural resources. Fresh water sources are drying up. Flood waters wash fertile soil into the ocean. Natural forests cover less than 2% of its territory. Indiscriminate logging of forests is leading to the desertification of its territory. Overpopulation, unsustainable agriculture and a growing need for lumber and cheap energy sources, mainly charcoal, are main causes for the disappearance of forests and wildlife. A considerable part of its biodiversity is endangered. A team of scientists and naturalists, led by Evo­lutionary Biology Professor Dr. Blair Hedges, take on the task to search for species with the help of the Audubon Society Haiti. They travel to the remote regions of La Gonave island and the La Hotte mountain range in order to investigate the current state of Haiti’s biodiversity, and discover almost 50 new species of amphibians and reptiles and rediscover species thought to be lost for decades. A combined effort by Haiti’s govern­ment, the Audubon Society Haiti, Dr. Blair Hedges and the Philadelphia Zoo concluded in the creation of a breeding program of Haiti’s highly endangered amphibians and a cryobanking program at the laboratory of Dr. Blair Hedges.

Lecture by Dr. S. Blair Hedges: “Solving Biological Questions with Historical Maps of Caribbean Islands”

The Caribbean islands have had a political history more complex than any other region in the New World, as revealed in maps spanning five centuries. At the time of European discovery, millions of Native Americans inhabited the islands and they had names for many geographic features. Some of those names are used today, such as Haiti and Jamaica. As islands and regions changed hands, names were introduced in different languages, some new and others as replacements for older names. The names given to islands, cities, and countries sometimes changed repeatedly. For biologists unfamiliar with this complex history, major errors can be made in determining where old but important museum specimens were collected. Timelines of Caribbean toponyms will be discussed, and how they bear on solving some biological questions.

See trailer here: 

For more on the film, see

This lecture will be broadcast LIVE online through the following website:

For further information, you may call Dr. Humberto García Muñiz, Director, at (787) 764-0000, extension 4212, or write to

See the Institute of Caribbean Studies on Facebook at\

Posted by: ivetteromero | January 30, 2015

In Havana, the XIXth Mariana de Gonitch National Singing Contest

Mariana de Gonitch

The following article “Mariana de Gonitch: A Soul Shared between Russia and Cuba,” highlights the forthcoming XIX Mariana de Gonitch National Singing Contest, which takes place at the Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos (ICAP) in Havana, Cuba, on February 1-5, 2015. The jury— headed by Italian singer Lucía Altieri—will make the results public at the award ceremony at the ICAP on Thursday, February 5, at 4:00pm.

The artistic labor and educational development of Mariana de Gonitch in the field of lyrical music as well as her roots in the cultural life of the island, constitute a symbol of the bond between Russia and Cuba. That is how it was expressed by Mijail Kaminin, ambassador of the Russian Federation in Havana, at the presentation of the jury of the competition that bears the Russian diva’s name, which will take place at the headquarters of the Instituto Cubano de Amistad con los Pueblos (ICAP) on February 1-5, 2015.

The ambassador meant that the competition will open the commemorative journey for the 70th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War and the 55th anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and Russia, at that time part of the Soviet Union. [. . .]

The competition, which honors the memory of the great artist and educator established in Cuba since 1940, will gather 18 singers, which, according to founder and director of the competition, Hugo Oslé, will compete in a demanding program that cover diverse types of popular and folkloric song.

For original article in Spanish, see


The National Institute for Latino Policy reposted today several articles that discuss whether Princess Elena of Avalor—who will make her debut in 2016 on a special episode of Sofia the First, a Disney Junior franchise—represents Latinas or not. The Disney press release says that Princess Elena is “a confident and compassionate teenager in an enchanted fairy tale kingdom inspired by diverse Latin cultures and folklore.” All sorts of news outlets reported that Elena was Disney’s “first Latina princess.”

Amelia Butterly (BBC Newsbeat) for example, says yes: “Say hello to Elena – she’s the latest Disney princess and the first of Latin descent.” Meanwhile, Carolina Moreno (Huffington Post) says, “not so fast” in her article “Sorry, Disney’s New Princess Elena Probably Doesn’t Count As Latina.” According to Nancy Kanter, a senior vice president at Disney Junior, “The writers have wisely chosen to write stories that include elements that will be familiar and relatable to kids from many different backgrounds including Spain and Latin America. For example, Sofia’s mom comes from a fictitious land, Galdiz, which was inspired by Spain [. . .]” Consequently, Moreno concludes that “Kanter’s statement indicates that Princess Elena would also not technically be Latina.”

Well. . . I guess I will just have to do some research and watch for traces of Latinidad or Caribbeanness in the episodes when they are aired next year. For now, let’s just highlight the fact that Aimee Carrero, who plays Elena, is an actress of Dominican Republic and Puerto Rican descent.


Here are excerpts of Butterly’s article (with links to the full post as well as Moreno’s and several other articles below):

Disney says she’s “inspired by diverse Latin cultures and folklore”. Elena of Avalor – starting in 2016 – is aimed at children aged two to seven. She reflects “the hopes and dreams of our diverse audience”, says Disney’s Nancy Kanter. Aimee Carrero, who currently stars in the ABC show Young and Hungry, will play teenager Elena.

Latin America has a population of 588 million and is made up of over twenty countries. While Elena does not come from a particular country, Aimee Carrero is an American actress of Dominican Republic and Puerto Rican descent.

The Disney princess franchise was created in the late 1990s, based on characters from Disney films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Cinderella (1950). Others include Ariel from the Little Mermaid (1989) and Pocahontas (1995).

In recent years Disney has introduced more characters from non-white backgrounds. Tiana, who stars in The Princess and the Frog, became the first African-American princess in 2009. Anika Nonie Rose, who voiced the character, said at the time that the new princess would have a big impact on children. [. . .]

[Photo of “Aimee Carrero” by MingleMediaTVNetwork – Aimee Carrero. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

For full article, see

Also see, and


Fundación Casa Cortés is presently hosting two exhibitions: “Poéticaentredos,” featuring work by José Morales and Agustín Fernández, and a collective exhibition of contemporary art from Latin America and the Caribbean, “Trans/Figura.” Graphic artists and designer Néstor Otero will be offering a guided tour on Saturday, January 31, 2015, at 2:00pm. The foundation is located at 210 San Francisco Street in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

As the Fundación Casa Cortés staff informs us, Néstor Otero and his wife, artist Annex Burgos, were responsible for designing and installing the wonderful historic murals found in the foundation, as well as the art for the Cuarto de los Cuentos [Story Room] Tales found in the Cortés ChocoBar.

The tour will offer drinks and cheese plates for a suggested donation; the foundation relies on donations to complement their funding efforts to carry out all their educational and cultural activities. For group visits, please call for a reservation at (787) 523-4642.

For more information on Casa Cortés, see

For more information, you may write to

Also see

See more information on Néstor Otero and Annex Burgos at,,, and

Posted by: ivetteromero | January 29, 2015

Humans, Not Climate Change, Caused Caribbean Bat Extinctions


A Popular Science blog, Eek Squad, posted about a study that seeks answer to why, in the Caribbean, about 18 percent of bat species died out (compared to about 80 percent of land mammals) and several species disappeared from entire islands. As the article stresses, “It was probably our fault.” Rebecca Boyle writes:

Without good radiocarbon-dating evidence, it’s been difficult to peg just when these die-offs occurred, which makes it harder to pin down what caused them. But a new study says it was probably our fault.

This challenges previous research that suggests natural climate changes were a culprit. Earth 25,000 years ago was a cooler place, with huge amounts of water locked up in glaciers. As temperatures increased in the transition between the Pleistocene and Holocene eras, the glaciers melted and the oceans rose, turning big islands into small islands and shrinking animals’ habitats.

Angel Soto-Centeno of the American Museum of Natural History and David Steadman, a University of Florida ornithologist, set out to unravel this story. If extinctions were driven by climate change, they would expect to see radiocarbon-dated fossils of extinct bats from the era known as the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition, and paleoclimate evidence should clearly show changes in available habitat — like the submergence of caves.

They excavated bat wing bones from a cave on Great Abaco, an island in the Bahamas, and dated them along with more than 2,000 bat fossils from 20 different sites in the Caribbean.

“Ours are the first radiocarbon dates for bat fossils in the whole West Indies,” says Steadman, curator of ornithology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, in a statement. “The new dates prove that certain bat populations were still in existence much later than previously thought — around the same time humans arrived.”

He and Soto-Centeno found at least five bat species withstood warming temperatures and reduced land areas, but were wiped out much later when climate conditions were much like they are today. “If climatic changes during the PHT were the primary driver of the losses of Caribbean bats, it is difficult to understand why these species survived for at least 5,000 years before becoming extinct,” the authors write. “Late Pleistocene changes in the size and distribution of Bahamian caves and cave environments are unlikely causes for the extirpation of these populations.”

Instead, they were done in by humans encroaching on their habitat. This likely was most prevalent in the forms of early farm settlements and their affect [sic] on wildfires, the authors say.

Bats are still prevalent throughout the Caribbean — they’re the dominant mammals in the entire region, as the authors point out. So why is this important? Understanding how, and when, certain Caribbean bats went extinct helps scientists understand how animals adapt to changing environments, and which ones might do it better than others. This can help biologists save modern animals from meeting similar fates in the face of climate change — which, this time, is also our fault. [. . .]

[Photo above: J. Angel Soto-Centeno of the American Museum of Natural History with a bat skull.]

For full article, see

The academic article is published in Nature Scientific Reports.


The Association of Dominican Classical Artists (ADCA) presents its fifth concert series “Celebrating Dominican Independence Day” and the 15-year Anniversary of “Dominicans 2000.” The concert will take place on February 26, 2015, at Aaron Davis Hall, Marian Anderson Theater, located at 135th Street and Convent Avenue. The concerts are free once you register at

Description: The Association of Dominican Classical Artists, Inc. (and co-sponsors The City College of New York Aaron Davis Hall, CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, Alianza Dominicana, Catholic Charities, NYS Senator Adriano Espaillat, NYS Assembly Member Guillermo Linares, The Washington Heights Community Conservatory and the Honorable New York City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez) invite you to A Celebration of Dominican Classical Composers and Musicians 2014-15, An Evening of Dominican Folk Music concert, featuring Dominican folklorist Iván Domínguez, Conjunto Folklorico Dominicano and the artists of Camerata Washington Heights on February 26th, 2015 at Aaron Davis Hall, Marian Anderson Theater, located at 135th Street and Convent Avenue.

The Association of Dominican Classical Artists: Founded in 1980 by musicians and composers of Dominican descent living and working in New York City, the Association of Dominican Classical Artists has as its mission to: foster appreciation for the art and folkloric music of the Dominican Republic, and by composers of Dominican descent who live or have lived in the United States; create performance spaces for its artists; and, bring live musical performances to communities with little or no access to such programming. We accomplish our mission by presenting concerts and educational programs.

Support the Association of Dominican Classical Artists at:

For more inquiries, write to Carlos Berroa at

Posted by: lisaparavisini | January 29, 2015

A bittersweet transnational love story dedicated to Indo-Surinamese


A post by Peter Jordens.

Khyati Rajvanshi reports for The Indian Express on a novel written to help Surinamese of Indian descent recognize and value their Indian heritage.

Safdar Zaidi comes from a small city in Uttar Pradesh, India, called Muzaffarnagar. […] Currently residing in Holland [since 1999], he spent the last five years researching and writing about the history and culture of Suriname. His book titled De suiker die niet zoet was – closely translated as: The Sugar That Was Not Sweet – embarks upon the journey of a young man named Raj through two time periods that help define him as a person. Married to a loving wife, he is mentally unstable due to the issue of identity crisis and battles with nightmares that change his reality. His path crosses with a Sufi saint that puts him in a trance and takes him back to his past life – a life full of separation, discovery, slavery, and unknown boundaries.

The root existence of Suriname is incomplete without the vast migration period that took place under the Dutch colonial period. The importance of such events shapes the history of many Surinami-Hindustanis that exist in The Netherlands. In June 1873, a transport ship called Lalla Rookh arrived in Suriname with hundreds of first ‘indentured laborers’ from British India. The indentured laborers were appointed to work on the plantations in order to replace the former slaves who after ten years of state control were released from their work, to do jobs for payment. The descendants of South Asian contract workers from then British India speak [Surinamese Hindi or] Sarnami [a dialect of Bhojpuri …]. One of the highlights of their presence in Netherlands [today, as immigrants from Suriname] is the existence of Surinamese radio channels, where Hindi Bollywood songs as well as Surinami songs are played, and the RJ converses in a Sarnami-Dutch with the listeners.

Safdar Zaidi reflectively summarized the motive behind his book as well as shed some light on the current situation in the country: “I have seen and met many Hindustani people here who are rejecting and ignoring their own roots and their own culture. They say: ‘Listen, I am Dutch and I have nothing to do with India and nothing to do with Suriname’. By seeing how they were behaving, I thought it was very important for the Dutch-Hindustani people to recognize their roots, culture and history. They should be proud of their history. They are underestimating their culture maybe because of inferiority complex and this complex is creating a block that is preventing them to move on with their lives.”

The first edition of the book was published in 2013 in The Hague and the second edition is recently published last month in Suriname. When asked how he felt about the reception of the book so far, he said: “I am very happy with the response, especially in the Suriname. Suriname is a country where different ethnic groups live together, for example, Creoles (black people), Indonesians, Lebanese, Jews, and many more. The Hindustani community was kind of a mystery to them and this novel is providing a sort of gateway in the understanding of Indian culture and Indian people. It is the first time that somebody has written a book about Hindustan immigration to Suriname.” […]

“I think it is a pity that not many Indians know about their own people living in another part of the world. One thing I want to tell them through you is Surinami-Hindustanis are very different from the Indians that live in Fiji or Mauritius. The Surinami Indian people are “hybrid Hindustanis”, said Zaidi. The term “hybrid Hindustanis” does justice to the people in Suriname due to their high tolerance when it comes to religion and society rules. Away from all the society norms and religious rules, the migrating population broke out of the boundaries and formed a society where everyone is equal and respected. In one Surinami family, it is normal to find Muslims, Christians, Jews, and other pupils that follow a type of religion. Other tribes and their cultures also influenced the Hindustani people, thus forming a hybrid society where there is no language of love, respect or culture. It is one hybrid community with several historic and cultural aspects that India needs to reconnect with. […]

The book is going to be published in Hindi and English in India. This is a novel-fiction based on migration of Indians from the Eastern UP/Bihar (Bhojpuri speaking area), which started in 1873 and ended in 1916 due to the intervention of Mahatma Gandhi. Through a heart wrenching love story, the book deals with historic events, causes and consequences of this migration to a Dutch colony at that time. We should certainly embrace our history and remember our people. This book is a tiny bridge that will help connect two nations that were once one. […]

For the complete, original article, go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | January 29, 2015

The story behind the calypso songs in the British movie Paddington


A post by Peter Jordens.

Tim Masters of the BBC explains how the soundtrack of the British movie Paddington (released in the USA on January 16, 2015) came to include classic calypso songs […] which hark back to the music of the immigrant community who were settling in Notting Hill – where Paddington bear makes his home – around the time when Michael Bond began writing his classic children’s books.

“My wife introduced me to this brilliant, but largely neglected music,” explains the film’s director, Paul King. “This is the music being made in the place where these books were written, by people who arrived on these shores. It felt like such a glorious gift – they are really upbeat positive songs – for the most part – all about that experience.”

One of the songs King heard was Lord Kitchener’s ‘London is the Place for Me.’ Lord Kitchener, real name Aldwyn Roberts, was a Trinidadian musician among the passengers on the Empire Windrush, the ship which brought hundreds of Caribbean immigrants to the UK in 1948. He sang ‘London is the Place for Me’ to a Pathe News crew as he disembarked at Tilbury.

The song, performed in the film by D Lime – featuring Tobago Crusoe – came to King’s attention on a compilation from Blur frontman Damon Albarn’s Honest Jon’s record label. Inspired by what he heard, King emailed Albarn’s agent and explained he was trying to track down some of the performers. “I expected no reply,” he recalls. “Or I hoped for a name of someone who might be able to help. What I didn’t expect was Damon to say he’d love to be involved, help put a band together and use his recording studio.”

For the full, original article, go to

Also see our previous post Lord Kitchener Podcast: BBC Radio – Kitch!

The four calypso songs in the movie, all performed by D Lime featuring Tobago Crusoe, are: ‘London Is the Place for Me’, ‘Gerrard Street’, ‘Blow Wind Blow’ and ‘Savito’. D Lime is a 5-piece calypso band especially put together for the film by Damon Albarn; in the movie the band makes appearances on city streets, performing merrily or gloomily as the scene requires. Paddington is a movie about being a stranger in a strange land, with an underlying message of tolerance and acceptance.

Our readers can watch Tobago Crusoe perform ‘London is the Place for Me’ at They can listen to the original song by Lord Kitchener at Also of interest: ‘Gerrard Street’ by King Timothy,

Posted by: lisaparavisini | January 29, 2015

Call for Papers: Reshaping (g)local dynamics of the Caribbean


Call for Papers

Reshaping (g)local dynamics of the Caribbean

Relaciones y Desconexiones – Relations et Déconnections – Relations and Disconnections

Hannover, 14-17 October 2015

In the course of the 20th and 21th century, the field of Caribbean Studies has undergone an important change of perspective from the emphasis on the reconstruction of continuities and analogies to an accentuation of discontinuities and ruptures.

Historical dispersion of people, forced encounters and re-linking through colonization, the Middle Passage and slavery, indentured labor, and also (post)colonial forms of migration have been decisive influences in the cultural and social practices of Caribbean knowledge production inside and outside the academy. The agents, objects and media involved in this circulation are very diverse. Dialogue and silence, exchange and rupture, remembering and forgetting occur, we suggest, among individuals and collective groups and along distinct linguistic, ethnic, economic, political and disciplinary configurations.

Our focus on “Relations and Disconnections” addresses the way in which the dialogue between theory and practice, as well as the interweaving of very diverse social and cultural practices, construct ‘the Caribbean’ as a common cultural space of conviviality (Gilroy 2004, Ette 2010, Leggewie/Adloff 2014). Various experiences of colonization and resistance have played their part in this process, and we aim to discuss the circulation of global and local knowledge production in and on the Caribbean with regard to four fundamental perspectives:

1) in and between linguistic spaces and areas,

2) in and between social and cultural practices and theoretical reasoning,

3) in and between agents and political regulations,

4) in and between academic disciplines.

Given the specific Caribbean context, it is crucial to consider these four perspectives locally and translocally as well as regionally and transregionally while paying special attention to political frameworks and gender aspects.

Our conference is taking into account the specific points of view of literary studies, linguistics, cultural studies, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, history and political science that constitute the highly diverse institutional and disciplinary locations of Caribbean Studies. The international and transatlantic perspective will focus on the relations and disconnections, ruptures and omissions in different constructions of ‘the Caribbean’ as an object of inquiry. We would like to offer a forum for a dialogue between Caribbean Studies in Germany, in the Caribbean, the USA, Canada and in other parts of Europe.

The organizers encourage a critical stance towards new trends and established research perspectives. Conference panels will cover the following topics:

Beyond slave narratives: from a franco- and hispanophone perspective;

– USA as a relay station of knowledge of the Caribbean;

– Intra-Caribbean and transoceanic dynamics (créolité, coolitude, kala pani);

- Theorizing rhythm, visual arts, music, dance and writing;

– Afro-Caribbean and Indo-Caribbean: Social fields and decolonial options;

– Diaspora, migration and transnational networks;

– Ethnopoliticization as a strategy of in- and exclusion;

– Digital Caribbean cultures and social media;

– Crossing disciplinary borders and translation;

– Non-knowledge/Agnotologynon histoire – non-narrativity.

Issues as environment and sustainability, e-governance and state of the arts of European Caribbean Studies as well as arts and visual culture, will be addressed in plenary sections and key notes but are also welcome as contributions to the panels.

The organizers aim to create possibilities for inter- and transdisciplinary research and exchange. Apart from the paper presentations, there will therefore be a poster session giving doctoral students and postdoc researchers the opportunity to present and discuss their projects. Posters are welcome on all topics related to the conference theme.

This call for papers is specifically addressed to junior and early career scholars. We are looking forward to receiving relevant paper proposals from a wide range of theoretical positions and welcome both individual case studies or textual analyses and wider theoretical reflections or surveys. Presentations may be in English, French or Spanish.

We kindly ask you to submit proposals for papers or posters (of no more than 300 words, please indicate your choice), including title, abstract, name, institutional affiliation and biobibliographical information, before February 25, 2015.

Please send proposals and inquiries to all of the following addresses:

Prof. Dr. Anja Bandau:

Dr. Anne Brüske:

PD Dr. Natascha Ueckmann:

Prof. Dr. Christine Hatzky :

Posted by: lisaparavisini | January 29, 2015

The Chupacabras Did What To Johnny Depp?


During Johnny Depp’s press tour for his latest film, “Mortdecai” the actor seemed to have skipped a day of work in Tokyo. Some say this was potentially due to the criticism and backlash the movie has gotten (on top of the box office flop), but not Depp; according to Natalie Roterdam of The Latin Post, he claims he was attacked by the famous and mythical Chupacabras despite reps having said he was ill the day before. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star told a detailed story: “I was attacked yesterday morning by a very rarely seen or experienced animal called ‘chupacabra’. I fought with it for hours. They’re very persistent, very mean. And I’m pretty sure it came into my suitcase.” Do we think he’s delirious, depressed or it’s just Depp’s usual cookoo-ness?

For the original report go to

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