Urban Transformations in the Americas: 20th Century Challenges

A conference sponsored by the Americas Forum of Georgetown College, with support from departments of English, French, Spanish and Portuguese; Comparative LiteratureProgram, Institute for the Study of International Migration, and Center for Latin American Studies.

Riggs Library
Georgetown University
November 5, 2009


9:00-9:30 Morning refreshments

9:30-9:45 Welcoming remarks by Miléna Santoro and Ricardo Ortiz, Georgetown University

9:45-11:00 Panelists presented by Gwen Kirkpatrick, Georgetown University

From Milan, Québec to Lewiston, Maine: A Ride on the Grand Trunk Railroad into a New Culture
Irène Mailhot-Bernard, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia

This multi-media presentation tells the story of Marthe Grenier Rivard who immigrated to the United States via the Grand Trunk Railroad to build a new and vastly different life in Lewiston, Maine. By listening to her story, we can come to understand the fear, loneliness and awe that hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Québec felt as they left the security of their rural homes and stepped onto the train that would lead them to their new lives in an industrial city.

Immigrating within Enfolded Borders, or the Aphasic Contradiction of being Filipino American
Allan Punzalan Isaac, Rutgers University

“Filipino-American” once designated the War of Pacification [1899-1901 (1913)] in which 100,00 Filipinos were killed. “Benevolent assimilation” of the archipelago quickly followed, and Philippine citizenship came under the designation US “national” for a half-century. “Enfolded borders” describes the forcible but vexed inclusion of the Philippines and other colonial sites as U.S. territory. Given this enfolded border constructed by the US imperium, I argue that “immigration” from early 20th century pensionados and manong laborers from US territory to present-day healthcare professionals poses a difficulty in locating migratory origin and destination. By extension, “Filipino American” as an ethnic assimilative term bears the historical mark of violent erasure and contradiction.

11:00-11:15 Coffee Break

11:15-12:30 Panelists presented by Adam Lifshey, Georgetown University

Diasporic Homelands: Redefining Borders in the Caribbean
Florence Ramond Jurney, Gettysburg College

Even though islands in the Caribbean were influenced over centuries by different colonial powers, commonalities and echoes can be found among them. While Edouard Glissant explained some of the cultural influences coming to the islands by the theory of reversion and diversion (Glissant, Caribbean Discourse), Antonio Benítez-Rojo has argued that a pattern can be found in the Caribbean because there are “features of an island that ‘repeat’” within the Caribbean archipelago (Benítez-Rojo, The Repeating Island 3). Edouard Glissant has since then argued for a Tout-Monde literature (All-World), forcing, in doing so, a reevaluation of the notion of homeland. In this presentation, I choose to focus on literature by women authors because much of the literary criticism about Tout-Monde seems to ignore gender considerations. I will focus first on the state(s) of this literature, since some of its major issues are intertwined with the question of migration. Secondly, I will examine how Caribbean novels deal with migration and the family. Finally, I will concentrate on borders: are there borders in the diasporic Caribbean? How are they expressed?

(Self-)Portraits of Migration and Exile by two South American filmmakers in Quebec, Marilù Mallet and Carlos Ferrand
Miléna Santoro, Georgetown University

Canada has long attracted immigrants from many regions of the world, and indeed, claims to have the highest immigration rate per capita in the world. Unlike the US, however, Canada has not historically attracted large proportions of Spanish-speaking immigrants. It is thus all the more interesting to examine the autobiographical films of Mallet and Ferrand, the first a Chilean, the second a Peruvian, both of whom chose to relocate to the French-speaking province of Quebec, and both of whom have chosen to express their multilingual narratives of migration and exile in film. This paper will discuss, respectively, Journal inachevé and Americano, films made 25 years apart, but that offer particularly compelling insights into a shared hemispheric vision and experience of what some might call an américanité, or an American identity that transcends, and indeed, even elides US borderlines. As both of these directors show, their trajectories are not without ghosts and regrets, but they also offer new models and modes of thinking about the migration experience within the Americas.

12:30-2:30 Lunch Break

2:30-4:00 Readings in US Latino/Latina Poetry, Fiction and Memoir

Our afternoon session is devoted to showcasing and discussing creative literary work by two emerging writers hailing from different immigrant US Latino and Latina communities and histories. After readings by Cecilia Rodriguez-Milanés and Rigoberto González two scholars of US Latino Literature, Professors Rodríguez and Ortíz will discuss the relationships between and among different forms of migrant experience in varying political, social and cultural contexts, the opportunities they present for creative expression, and the challenges they pose to cultural criticism and historical scholarship.

2:30 Introductions by Ricardo Ortiz, Georgetown University

Short Fiction: “Beast of Burden” and “Muchacha” from Marielitos, Balseros and Other Exiles
Cecilia Rodriguez Milanés, University of Central Florida

Memoir and Poetry: Mariposa Tales: A Reading of Memoir and Poetry
Rigoberto González, Rutgers University

4:00-4:15 Coffee Break

4:15-5:00 Marielitos, Mariposas and Other Identity Migrations in Latino America and US Latino Studies: a Conversation
Richard T. Rodríguez, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Ricardo Ortíz, Georgetown University

5:00 Concluding Remarks, John Tutino, Director of the Americas Forum and Professor of History
Georgetown University

5:15-6:00 Reception, Riggs Library