Cuban Literature Lecture Broadens Horizons

Vanessa Valdés, Ph.D. and associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese at City College-CUNY, visited Manhattan College to deliver a lecture about Cuban women’s writing, titled “El amor, la Revolución, y la sobrevivencia: una conversación sobre las obras de Nancy Morejón y Daína Chaviano.” Translated, her lecture is called “Love, Revolution, and Survival: A Conversation about the Literary Work of Nancy Morejón and Daína Chaviano.”

Valdés specializes in comparative studies of the literatures of the Americas, particularly Afro-Hispanic, African-American, Spanish Caribbean and U.S. Latina and Latino literatures. Because of her vast knowledge in these particular topics, the department of modern languages and literatures invited her to campus to discuss spirituality and the representation of African religions, particularly the santería tradition. She is also the author of the book “Oshun’s Daughters: The Search for Womanhood in the Americas,” a book “that paves new ground in African diaspora studies and women’s studies,” as Evelyn Scaramella, Ph.D. and assistant professor of Spanish, said.

For Scaramella, Valdés’s visit to campus was “an opportunity for our students to deepen their understanding of topics in Cuban and Caribbean literature” and “an opportunity outside the classroom setting, for our Spanish majors and minors, to hear Spanish spoken in scholarly contexts” as the whole talk was given in Spanish.

One of the key moments of the lecture was when students had the opportunity to have a conversation with Valdés in Spanish.

Unlike the typical lecture on campus, it was conducted entirely in Spanish. Students also asked Valdes questions in Spanish at the conclusion of her presentation.

“Dr. Valdés did a lovely job interacting with our students during the lecture,” Scaramella said. “She not only asked questions to them but she invited student readers to recite the literature passages she was discussing.”

Kaitlyn Clarke, a Spanish and international studies major, was one of the students who attended the discussion.

“It was very interesting how she brought in the Caribbean religion aspect to it because that’s important for my minor in Latin America Studies and it also relates to a Religion class I will be taking next semester,” Clarke said.

“I greatly enjoyed my time on Manhattan College’s beautiful campus,” Valdes said. “I grew up nearby, on Mosholu Parkway, and yet had never visited the school. I appreciated the opportunity to share my research with students and faculty [at MC].”