About the Author
Amanda Wasserman is a rising senior at Harvard College from Tulsa, Oklahoma and Parkland, Florida. She concentrates in Social Studies with a citation in Arabic, but has also taken classes in Spanish, Portuguese and global health. Currently, she is preparing to write her senior thesis on language, rhetoric, and gender during the Argentine Dirty War.
Bienvenidos a LA Familia
Harvard National Model United Nations Latin America
It was a freezing cold night in March when I walked into the student residence called Eliot for the first time. As a freshman, it was my first time at the dorms along the river aptly known as River Houses since admitted students weekend. When I found the room I was looking for, a group of seniors who I knew only tangentially sat me down in a dark room. They asked me a series of seemingly random questions: “Who is current president of Guatemala?” “What is the current political climate in Ecuador?” “Name the current Minister of the Interior in Peru.”
I had no idea, but I was saved by the bell. The lights came on as an entire group of sophomores, juniors and seniors turned on the lights and congratulated us. Two of my friends and I were officially three of the newest directors of Harvard National Model United Nations Latin America (HNMUN-LA), a club that has defined my past three years at Harvard.
Harvard National Model United Nations (HNMUN) is the largest, oldest and most prestigious collegiate Model United Nations conference. In 2012, HNMUN-LA held its first session in Buenos Aires, Argentina. HNMUN-LA sought to bring the well-established model of HNMUN abroad with a distinctly Latin American focus. Since 2012, HNMUN-LA has traveled to Brasilia, Brazil (’13), Natal, Brazil (’14), Lima, Peru (’15), Mexico City, Mexico (’16), Lima, Peru (’17-’19) and Puebla, Mexico (’20).
In Model United Nations, high school and university students learn about international relations by roleplaying countries or historical figures. Generally speaking, there are three types of Model United Nations committees. In General Assembly committees, delegates debate matters of global significance with as many voices as possible. For example, Kiara Gomez (’22) directed the Social, Cultural and Humanitarian committee at HNMUN-LA 2020. There, delegates discussed the topic of non-state actors and the refugee crisis. In Economic and Social Council & Regional Bodies (ECOSOC & RB), delegates debate policy-oriented topics of a more limited scope. For example, Mónica Hinojosa-Díaz (’22) directed the Organization of American States at HNMUN-LA 2020. In her committee, delegates discussed the informal economy in Latin America. In Specialized Agencies, delegates deal with contemporary or historical crises in groups of no more than 20. For example, Pedro Farias (’20) directed the United Fruit Company Board of Directors, 1954 at HNMUN-LA 2020. From responding to labor strikes to dealing with devastating crop failures, Pedro’s delegates responded to crisis updates in real-time.
HNMUN-LA provides delegates with an educational and enriching committee experience every year. However, my favorite part about our conference is that we strive to bring this educational experience outside the committee room as well. HNMUN-LA is the only Harvard Model United Nations conference that hosts as a one-day training event called Next Generation. At Next Generation, our directors lead group exercises with local high school students focusing on speaking, writing and caucusing. By giving young delegates one-on-one feedback, we strive to empower the next generation (yes, pun intended) of Latin American leaders.
HNMUN-LA also hosts nightly social events, reflecting our belief that some of the most important educational experiences are informal in nature. My favorite social event is Global Village, an event where delegations from different countries set up booths with food and drinks from their countries. At Global Village, the countries we talk about in committee come to life as we eat delicious Samba bars from Venezuela and drink pisco from Peru. This past year, Global Village featured booths from Colombia, Mexico, and Guyana as well.
As cliché as it sounds, the best part about HNMUN-LA is the people. HNMUN-LA would not be possible without the host teams we work with every year who run in-country operations. Last year, we were blessed to work with a host team from Tec de Monterrey Puebla led by Ángel Capilla, Gloria Cabral, and Fabrizio Ortíz. Without their magical ability to anticipate problems before they even became problems, we would never have been able to put on such a successful conference.
In my role as Under Secretary General (Vice President) of Committees at HNMUN-LA 2020, I was tasked with recruiting assistant directors (ADs) to help our directors run their committees. ADs come from all over Latin America to assist our directors with both parliamentary procedure and substantive matters. ADs serve as second sets of eyes for Harvard directors, but they are most importantly friends who make even the stressful moments of running a conference enjoyable. Similarly, our host team recruits volunteers to assist with administrative and logistical tasks. Every afternoon at HNMUN-LA 2020, I would pick up coffee for our directors with one of our fantastic volunteers, Stephanie Huerta. By the second day, she had memorized all the directors’ names, room numbers and coffee orders!
HNMUN-LA is nothing without the delegates who attend our conference. This past year, I directed the Third Party Actors (TPA), a committee where delegates represent Latin American news outlets and report on HNMUN-LA. In spite of having participated in Model United Nations for seven years, I had never met such an intelligent, interesting and inspiring group of people. Throughout conference, my delegates produced articles, newspaper spreads, podcasts and social media content of an extremely high caliber.
As I reflect on why HNMUN-LA has been so transformative for me, I am brought back to the night I found out I would be a part of it. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to join a remarkable group of Harvard students who would become my family on campus. Through HNMUN-LA, I had the opportunity to become close with upperclassmen I admired and underclassmen who I never would have met otherwise. Together, our team climbed Machu Picchu, saw a rainbow form over a field of alpacas, visited Chichen Itza and dove into the Ik Kil cenote. We laugh together, cry together, celebrate together and work together. Most importantly, we believe in what our conference does together.
Next January, I will be returning to my final HNMUN-LA as a director. Currently, the secretariat (board) is evaluating host team bids from various countries in Latin America. Under the amazing leadership of Sofía Corzo (’21) and Matthew Miller (’21), I know our conference will reach never-before-seen heights wherever we go. More than any class or project, it is HNMUN-LA that I have to thank for showing me the unprecedented vibrance of Latin America. Sofía herself said it best: “In times when authoritarianism, polarization, and populism divide people by borders, we have to place our faith in the possibility of a better future. This conference was made for young people by young people – it will always have a place in my heart.”
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