MONA, Jamaica — The University of the West Indies (The UWI) and the Mexican Embassy in Jamaica partnered in October for an innovative bilingual book launch of ‘Afro-Mexican Constructions of Diaspora, Gender, Identity and Nation,’ authored by Professor Paulette Ramsay of The UWI’s Mona Campus. Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Juan José González Mijares, who is fully supportive of The UWI multilingualism strategy, chaired the proceedings streamed via UWItv.
Professor Ramsay, who recently received The UWI Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research Accomplishments, first published the book in English in 2016. It analyses cultural and literary material produced by Afro-Mexicans on the Costa Chica de Guerrero y Oaxaca, Mexico, so as to undermine and overturn claims of mestizaje or Mexican homogeneity.
Hispanic Studies critics have recognised it as the first academic book to present an in-depth research on Afro-Mexican literary and cultural productions. She noted that Afro-Mexicans had an important role to play in the country’s fight for national independence, joining revolutionary groups to fight against colonialism. The Spanish translation of the research in the book will therefore allow Afro-Mexicans and others to learn about their literature, culture and history.
“For the Afro Mexicans of the Costa Chica, after many years of researching their history, their culture—and their oral tradition with its themes and stories and lyrical poems—after working with them and listening to them, their stories their silences and their songs, after breaking bread with them and sharing their deep desires to see themselves and be seen in their own ebony coloured esteem,” said Professor Ramsey.
Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles remarked on the fact that Mexico, a critical part of the Caribbean world, has struggled with its cultural identity. He congratulated Professor Ramsay on her seminal and multi-disciplinary work which is a pioneering intervention and sheds light on a largely ignored subject that Mexican scholars will find most empowering.
Sir Hillary said the book also serves to enhance the intellectual reputation of The UWI and demonstrates the extent to which UWI’s professors and researchers have been keen to “stretch the boundaries not only of this civilization but to participate in global studies.
“This is why The UWI has comfortably emerged into the world of globally ranked universities,” said Sir Hillary. He thanked The UWI Press for being courageous, bold, and a publisher of choice for authors who wish to push beyond comfortable boundaries and become global in their contribution to world culture, the literature of humanity, and the reconstruction of the world. Both the English and Spanish versions were published by UWI Press.
Dr. Luz Longsworth, Chair of UWI Press as well as Pro Vice-Chancellor in charge of Global Affairs and Principal of The UWI’s Open Campus, expressed her excitement at the success of this first-time initiative which arose from a discussion with Ambassador Gonzáles. She considered the event historic from several perspectives: this book was The UWI Press’ first translated monograph; the launch of the book was happening in two languages – Spanish and English; and UWItv was managing a live broadcast with simultaneous translation. All of which signalled the tertiary institution’s entrance into a multilingual UWI with the objective of ensuring full multilingualism in The UWI of its students and staff by 2025. PVC Longsworth thanked the Ambassador of Mexico to Jamaica for his energetic leadership and support throughout.
Several speakers offered contributions during the virtual launch: Professor Dale Webber, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Mona Campus; Professor Waibinte Wariboko, Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Education, Mona Campus; Mr. Joseph Pereira, former Deputy Principal, Mona Campus; Fr. Glyn Jemmot Nelson, Lecturer, Mount St. Benedict Seminary, Trinidad and Tobago, and former Priest in Afro-Mexican communities in Mexico; Dr. Rubén Olachea Pérez, Lecturer and Researcher, Autonomous University of Baja California Sur; and Dr. Elia Avendaño Villafuerte, Researcher on the Project “Rights of Indigenous and Black Peoples”, University Programme of Cultural Diversity and Interculturalism, National Autonomous University of Mexico. Ambassador Gillian Bristol, Director of The UWI’s Latin America-Caribbean Centre moderated a post launch Q&A session.