The final weeks of 2014 were remarkably exciting for faculty, fellows and staff at CLALS. We held a productive workshop focused on advancing our work on Religion and Democratic Contestation in Latin America; launched in Santiago, Chile, a book resulting from our studies of emerging challenges in Latin American economies; and presented to researchers and practitioners at multiple venues across the country a timely study of the factors driving migration to the U.S. by unaccompanied minors and families from Central America. We also witnessed history in the making in Cuba, as a half dozen of us were in Havana for a meeting on US-Cuban relations precisely at the moment that the two countries’ presidents announced a long overdue commitment to normalize bilateral relations.
We are especially proud of the role that American University researchers have played over the years, and particularly during 2014, in advocating for rational policies that would finally bring the two countries to relate to one another in, as President Castro put it, “a civilized manner.” At this pivotal moment I wish to acknowledge publicly the vital support provided to our efforts and those of others by the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, which has been a steadfast source of support for work on this issue for many years. We intend to work diligently during the coming months to advance the momentum unleashed by the two Presidents’ announcements, and in partnership with the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the Center will convene a stakeholders meeting in January to discuss how best to move forward.
Our plans for 2015 include building on achievements of projects related to the dynamics of democracy in Latin America and core economic challenges facing the region, as well as on migration, U.S. foreign policy, and the evolving role of Latino populations in shaping American society. In this regard, we are looking forward to convening the inaugural American University Annual Latino Public Affairs Forum (ALPAF), scheduled for January 15, which will bring AU faculty together with other scholars, policy experts, journalists and advocates to debate the likely dynamics of immigration policy over the next two years. In addition, the Center will facilitate an unprecedented survey of households in the Washington DC metropolitan area, to be conducted in collaboration with AU’s newly-established Metropolitan Policy Center, which will over-sample Latino populations so as to gain insight into the ways that they are shaping social and economic trends in the city and its surrounding areas.
The Center will continue during the coming year to expand its activities related to Central America, both through a series of book launches devoted to our four volume collection on Central American Elites and the Reconfiguration of Power in the region and through ongoing collaboration with the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) regarding social exclusion and urban violence. At the same time, we intend to focus during 2015 on expanding our existing strong ties to research networks in Brazil and Mexico, the two most populous countries in Latin America, both of which boast remarkably strong research networks in their academic communities. Faculty working groups are being established in order to consolidate and expand our programs related to both countries, and I look forward to sharing results of our efforts during the coming months with faculty and students across campus.