Human Rights and Health in Latin America

Socio-Cultural Reflections in Epidemiology


Development strategies that attempt to make improvements in the lives of the rural poor without addressing the underlying structural causes of poverty serve to deflect attention away from the real needs of impoverished communities. (Linda Green, Medical Anthropology Review, 1989)

Anthropologists, involved as we are with trying to understand the lives of people within their local worlds must be poignantly aware of the growing pauperization of the world and of the global forces...

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Citizenship or Favelaship

Interview with Caio Ferraz

By Ben Penglase


While conducting pre-dissertation research on local social movements in Brazil in the summer of 1996, I decided to visit several of Rio de Janeiro's favelas. A Brazilian anthropologist friend suggested that we visit the favela of Vigário Geral in the northern outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. I had already known about Vigário Geral, the site of an infamous August, 1993, massacre of 21 people by a death squad composed of off-duty members of the Rio police. What I knew less about was the...

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Violence in Latin America

By June Carolyn Erlick

Violence--like most diseases--is caused by a complex network of factors," said Rodrigo Guerrero, a medical doctor, researcher, and violence-prevention activist. "Our challenge is to understand as many of those factors as possible, plan some interventions to address them, try them out, and see what we learn." In short, Guerrero is trying to figure out the epidemiology of violence and then do something about it.

Developing such a strategy was one of the main themes of a two-day conference organized by the David Rockefeller...

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Transnationalism and the Second Generation

By June Carolyn Erlick

Transnationalism and the Second Generation", a two-day conference April 3 and 4, examined the changing nature of immigration in the United States and increasingly interactive ties between this country and the country of origin. The conference,co-sponsored by the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies and theWeatherhead Center for International Affairs, was organized by Wellesley College Sociology Professor and WCFIA associate Peggy Levitt and Harvard Professor of Sociology Mary Waters.

"These strong, widespread...

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The Afropaedia

By Francisco Ortega

In 1909 W.E.B. Du Bois, the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University (1896), proposed the ambitious scheme for an Encyclopedia Africana. For more than eighty years, this has remained a dream. Now, at last, two important developments have made it possible to turn Du Bois's dream into a reality. First, and most important, is the vast explosion of information about black culture that has occurred since the birth of Black Studies in the 1960s. Scholars are well on their way in the process of reassembling knowledge of...

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Cuban Connections

By John H. Coatsworth

Since its founding in December 1994, DRCLAS has worked to facilitate academic and cultural exchanges with Cuba. Cuban scholars have visited the Center for periods as long as a semester. Harvard faculty and students have conducted research with Center support in Cuba.

In early March of this year, for example,DRCLAS director John Coatsworth traveled to Cuba with a Harvard delegation to attend a meeting of historians at the Cienfuegos Provincial Archive. The group, which included former Massachusetts Congressman Chester Atkins,...

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Cuba Today

Miracle or Mirage

By Kathleen O'Neill

Miracle or Mirage? A conference co-sponsored by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies and the Inter-American Dialogue entitled "Cuba Today" explored this question in the context of recent events in Cuba. Debate centered on whether Cuba has experienced fundamental or merely cosmetic change, whether this change demands a policy response from the United States and, what form such a response should take. Panels on the Cuban economy and politics...

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Interviewing Military Officers

A Woman Researcher's Perspective

By Jennifer Schirmer

We drove up into the residential hills of Villa Hermosa, overlooking the city of Guatemala, searching for the house amongst the many white-stucco, high-walled mansions. I asked the taxi-driver to wait to make sure this was the address the colonel's secretary had given me over the telephone. I pressed the buzzer and gave my name. A man's footsteps echoed in the interior courtyard, large dogs barked, and the small window in the gate was opened only to first reveal the snub of an...

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Delivering the Data

Women Refugees and Human Rights

By Deborah Anker  

Marta was 18, living at home in El Salvador, when she dated a man who raped her. She told her father about the rape, and he responded by threatening to kill her for damaging the family's honor; her mother advised her to marry her rapist. After they married, the husband beat her regularly, breaking bones and leaving scars, and raped her repeatedly, several times in front of their eldest daughter. She never sought assistance from the police, because her husband was a respected member of...

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A Violence Called Democracy


As any journalist or diplomat who has spent time in Guatemala will attest, no group there is more difficult to penetrate than the Guatemalan Armed Forces. As much a caste as an institution, the military distrusts outsiders and is reluctant to deal with them. There is ample reason for that, of course: as one human rights reports after another has detailed, officers and soldiers ordered and carried out the vast majority of the estimated 200,000 killings and disappearances that took place during the country's 36-year civil war.

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Proclaiming the Jubilee

Global Coalition Demands Further Debt Relief for Poorest Countries

By Elizabeth A. Donnelly

Carmen Rodrí­guez heads the Charismatic Movement in a sprawling shantytown parish south of Lima, Peru. She and other lay leaders of the Lurí­n Diocese have been preparing for the upcoming millennium in an unusual way. Earlier this year, after having participated in Lenten workshops offering economic and theological perspectives on debt relief, they went door-to-door and gathered some 90,000 signatures on an internationally circulated petition calling...

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Latino Families and the Educational Dream

Resilience along a Rocky Road

By Lawrence P. Hernandez

Insisting that we do our interview in English, Ricardo Robles reluctantlyrecalls the dreams he had for his children when first arriving nine years agoto the U.S. from Zacatecas, Mexico. "They deported me three times, but I kept coming back. I thought here my kids could get the education you know to be successful. I wanted a job and to find a house...to learn English." Fate had other ideas. His 17 year-old son Carlos, a member of the Lil? Aces street gang and a high school dropout, was killed...

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Gender and Education

Some Questions on Machismo, Pedagogy, and Values

By Caroline E. Parker

"There aren't very many young women [in Latin America] who can consider autonomous life plans." -- Gloria Corvalán, 1990

In terms of sheer numbers, girls in Latin American schools aren't in such bad shape compared to other areas of the world. They have gained what is termed "gender parity"-girls are as likely as boys to enter first grade, are as likely (or unlikely) to finish primary school, and in some countries are even more likely to attend college...

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Education and Poverty in Latin America

Can Schools Make Any Difference?

By Fernando Reimers

More Latin Americans are living in poverty than twenty years ago, despite the region's economic growth. The poor generally are still illiterate or barely literate. What is worse is that their children have limited opportunities to learn. They do not get a chance to move out of poverty by acquiring skills and knowledge, although about nine out of every ten children in the region enrolls in first grade.

The dynamics of education in Latin America are a critical link in the...

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Decentralization of Education and Institutional Change

A Look at Mexico

By Gustavo Merino Juarez

In the national independence day parade in Oaxaca last September, as is tradition, hundreds of the city's schoolchildren marched alongside rescue workers, police and soldiers. Leading each school contingent were two children carrying the school banner bearing its name and in most cases the words Escuela Póblica Federal and its number. The legend struck me as odd. Eight years before the federal government had transferred to the states the responsibility for the operation of...

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