University at Buffalo’s Program in Caribbean and Latina/o Cultural Studies: A Hands-On Experience

cenote.BTDThis article focuses on the way graduate students in the University at Buffalo’s Master of Humanities (MAH) Program in Caribbean and Latina/o Cultural Studies are encouraged to use their research travel to develop cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary research specializations, as Dr. Jose Buscaglia, director of the program, explains. These students value the program’s hands-on educational opportunities.

The spring 2014 semester will be no exception to the rule. Caribbean studies’ students will explore a lost Mayan underwater world as part of an archeology project at the Autonomous University of Yucatan, in Merida, Mexico, one of several partner institutions involved with the UB program.

Dalia Muller, PhD, associate director of the UB Caribbean Cultural Studies Program, says the students will explore ancient “cenotes” – natural sinkholes or surface connections to subterranean water bodies like rivers and cave systems. Mayans sometimes made sacrificial offerings to the god of the underworld via these water portals and students will be on the hunt for material related to such sacrifices – pottery, underground pyramids, paintings, and animal and human skeletons. Muller says Caribbean studies students seem to thrive on the program’s intensive curriculum and study-abroad opportunities at universities and research centers in Spain and Mexico.

[. . .] The program includes on-campus study at UB, in Mexico and in world-class research centers and historical archives in Spain. Among its academic offerings are the General Archive of the Indies, housed in the ancient merchant’s exchange in Seville. The archive contains 400 years of American history from Columbus to the 1830s.

Jose Buscaglia, PhD, director of the program, describes it as one that allows students the opportunity to study the Caribbean on their own terms. “We encourage students to use the program to develop cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary research specializations in fields like history, politics, philosophy, archaeology, anthropology, filmmaking, performance architecture, urban planning and creative writing,” he says.

In addition to Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan (Autonomous University of Yucatan), UB’s academic partners in this endeavor are the Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales (Center for Humanities and Social Sciences) in Madrid and the Escuela de Estudios Hispanoamericanos (School of Hispanic American Studies) in Seville, Spain. “Apart from facilitating academic and research opportunities that are one-of-a-kind, the program made me aware of the fundamental role played by the Caribbean’s historic and geographic space in the Americas,” says Jesus Ruiz, a MAH alum and doctoral candidate and fellow at Tulane University. [. . .]

For more information on the program, visit the Caribbean Cultural Studies website.’

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