Since its founding twelve years ago, the Center’s Cuban Studies Program has sought to advance interdisciplinary academic collaborations with Cuba. Towards this end, the Cuban Studies Program advanced initiatives to analyze the economic development challenges facing Cuba, the role of social policy in mitigating inequality and addressing social mobility and equity trends, the potential for change in U.S.-Cuba relations, and the quality of life of Cubans with HIV/AIDS receiving antiretroviral therapy and other infectious diseases. Among the notable contributions of these four projects has been success in fostering debate among scholars in Cuba and outside Cuba and building bridges between Cuban scholars and leading researchers in these fields who do not work solely on Cuba. The multidisciplinary, cross-country research focus of these collaborations has made Harvard’s work in these areas distinctly different from that of other U.S.-Cuba exchanges. Notably, in 2011-12, one edited volume was published related to the initiative on U.S.-Cuban relations, entitled Debating U.S.-Cuban Relations: Shall We Play Ball? (Routledge, 2011), and co-edited by Jorge I. Domínguez, Rafael M. Hernández and Lorena Barberia. Another volume related to the initiative on economic development and social policy was also published, entitled Cuban Economic and Social Development: Policy Reforms and Challenges in the 21st Century (DRCLAS and Harvard University Press, 2012) and co-edited by Jorge I. Domínguez, Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva, Mayra Espina Prieto and Lorena Barberia.
In 2011-12, the Center also supported initiatives to advance infectious disease research with two projects between scientists from Cuba and the Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Harvard School of Public Health. Together with the Pedro Kourí Institute (IPK) of Tropical Medicine, the Program supported a joint research project on histoplasmosis, a fungal disease that is endemic in Cuba and much of the Caribbean along with parts of the American Midwest. An exploratory project was also initiated with the Universidad de La Habana to further research on antimicrobial peptides. An outcome of the collaboration between the IPK and HMS was the publication of a paper on AIDS in Cuba co-authored by scholars from both institutions: Carlos Aragonés-López, Jorge Pérez-Ávila, Mary C. Smith Fawzi, Arachu Castro, “Quality of Life of People with HIV/AIDS Receiving Antiretroviral Therapy in Cuba: A Cross-Sectional Study of the National Population,” American Journal of Public Health 102(5); 2012.
As part of these projects, the Cuban Studies Program sponsored and hosted 12 short-term research visits by Cuban scholars and scientists, one of the highest numbers of Cuban scholars the Center has hosted in an academic year. The program has continued to develop and innovate in the semester-long Harvard College Program in Cuba at the Universidad de La Habana, now in its sixth year. Cuba was the most popular destination for College students choosing to study in Latin America for a semester. During the 16-week program, Harvard students attend classes alongside Cuban students and work with former DRCLAS Cuban visiting scholars for mentoring and guidance.
In pursuing these activities, the Cuban Studies Program continues to adhere in every respect to U.S. laws and regulations that govern transactions with Cuba. The accomplishments of the Cuban Studies Program were underwritten by the generous support of Atlantic Philanthropies, the Ford Foundation, the Christopher Reynolds Foundation and the members of the Cuban Studies Fund.