Ohio Latin Americanist Conference Brings Important Conversations to Campus

From multiple movies to various educational panels, the Ohio Latin Americanist Conference (OLAC) brought topics such as immigration reform, economic stability, and social rights to Wittenberg’s campus last weekend.

The Conference, in its 13th year, brings together various universities and speakers to discuss issues and themes relevant to Latin America and the Latino communities in other countries.

“The issues that the conference allows to be discussed are central to the world we live in,” said Associate Professor of Foreign Languages and Literature Christine McIntyre.

Having brought the conference to Wittenberg’s campus for the last two years, McIntyre said hosting it brings “an intense presence of Latin America to a place where it doesn’t exist anymore” and helps students realize the local importance of issues such as immigration reform and human rights.

“We’re not talking about the border; we’re talking about Clark County,” McIntyre said.

One panel that focused on issues of immigration discussed the physical, psychological, and economic hardships that undocumented immigrants face on a daily basis.  Rape, robbery, and mental health disorders were brought up as just some of the problems that plague them.

“The longer they stay in the United States, the more likely they are going to develop a mental health disorder,” said Eréndira López-García, a Clinical Psychologist who spoke at OLAC.

These disorders stem from a variety of anxieties and stresses during their daily lives; driving without a driver’s license, struggling to live on low wages, and being forced to stay in the same location all contribute to mental health problems over time.

The Columbus metro area alone has a seven percent immigration population while the whole United States has a 12 percent population of immigrants.  These issues, although not always discussed in the mainstream media, still exist and still affect millions of people in the United States.

Other panels focused on similar issues of the economy and human rights in other countries in Latin America.

One panel was centered solely on Cuba: its literacy campaign, its literature, and its provincial government.  This panel drew many Wittenberg students who were interested in learning about the island.

It gave a “very insightful view of how they run things instead of how we see it,” said junior Dylan Newsom of the Cuba panel.

One of the three movies shown during the conference, “1961” by Catherine Murphy, elaborated on the successful literacy campaign in Cuba by presenting personal stories of young Cubans who helped spread literacy during the yearlong campaign. This gave students another opportunity to see a historical event through a different nation’s eyes.

Other panels discussed identity in the Andes regions of South America and the history and impact of the indigenous groups from the time of the Conquest until present day.

Although there were a few changes to the initial itinerary due to unexpected travel problems, the conference still ran smoothly with appropriate schedule substitutions made as necessary.

“C’est la vie,” joked McIntyre.

About 60 guests attended the two-day conference, which was held in the Joseph C Shouvlin Center for Lifelong Learning.

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