Category: Natural Disasters: Coping with Calamity

Editor’s Letter: Natural Disasters

We were little black cats with white whiskers and long tails. One musical number from my one and only dance performance—in the fifth grade—has always stuck in my head. It was called “Hernando’s Hideaway,” a rhythm I was told was a tango from a faraway place called Argentina.

After the Earthquake: Juan’s Life

Juan was a construction helper. He lived in Armenia, but his parents were from the Antioquia region, who had fled because of the violence there. The mother of his children was called…

Political Memory

Late in 1717 Dr. Joseph Surin, precentor of the Cathedral of Old Guatemala, carried out some calculations: had the mudslide that wiped the city on the 28th of August, feast day of Saint…

Environmental Stress and Rainmaking

When Europeans first attempted to settle in North America north of the Rio Grande, their confrontations with Indian cultures were marked by cosmic struggles over environmental…

“Bury the dead and feed the living”

“Bury the dead and feed the living.” These were the words attributed to Portugal’s pragmatic, all-powerful first minister, the Marquês de Pombal, as he contemplated the damage wrought by…

The Jesuit and the Jew

Such a Spectacle of Terror and Amazement, as well as the Desolation to Beholders, as perhaps had not been equalled from the Foundation of the World.” Thus an English merchant writing…

On Hurricanes: My Favorite Metaphor

The hurricane is my favorite metaphor for the study of both Cuba and political science. Living through hurricanes as a little boy predisposed me to study both. Hurricanes combine certainty…

The Winds of Justice

n the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Arsalan Suleman, a third-year Harvard Law School student from Kenner,Louisiana, was one of the 240 students from 57 law schools who traveled to…

In the Shadow of the Winds

The comparisons were inescapable in the aftermath of Katrina. New Orleans as the Third World: displacement and destitution…

Photo Reflection: 1976 Earthquake in Guatemala

In the early morning hours of February 4, 1976, an earthquake that registered 7.5 on the Richter scale ripped through Guatemala. The quake left 23,000 dead, affected almost five million…

About Hurricanes and Other Vicissitudes

T’was the night before the hurricane and out came the pasteles (Puerto Rican tamales), along with batteries, candles, radios, matches and canned goods. This may sound like a strange way to…

Differential Disasters

Every Puerto Rican knows this plena and can sing its chorus, and on that island where from July to October everyone frequently checks the weather reports and looks to the sky, the song…

Editor’s Letter: Natural Disasters

My very first reporting trip to Latin America was to cover the aftermath of a natural disaster. Hurricane Fifi had smashed into Honduras in the fall of 1974, and my neighbro Angela Acosta…

The Rise of Nationalism in Venezuela

Nationalism and the idea of the nation-state fascinate us all. We come to think of ourselves, govern ourselves and manage our relationship to the rest of the world through the agency of a…

The History of Havana

“This city is the most welcoming place,” begin Dick Cluster and Rafael Hernández, the former a well-regarded novelist and social critic and the latter a Cuban social scientist, poet and editor of…

Making A Difference: Library Grant to the Galapagos

That is just a small sampling of the more than 100,000 documents found in the collection of the Corley Smith Library. What those numbers fail to fully capture, however, is the significance of this…

Hurricane Mitch: a View from the Ground

We had spent the past several months reading national and municipal level disaster impact reports, reviewing funding proposals for community reconstruction, and talking to different…

Large-Scale Risks and Extreme Events

Several years ago, I was invited to give a talk in Europe to a large audience of industry representatives, government officials and experts from academia. The main topic was “new…

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