The Yale Center for International Nursing Scholarship and Education hosted a Latin America Panel Discussion, “A Taste of Latin America,” on February 26, 2009, at the Jane Ellen Hope Building. The panel included Felix Maradiaga, 2008 Yale World Fellow and former Nicaraguan Defense Secretary; Enrique Mayer, Yale Professor of Anthropology and expert in Andean agriculture and Latin American peasantries; and John Powers, Director of Public Affairs at Yale University School of Nursing and Mission Team Director in La Romana, Dominican Republic.
All three speakers emphasized the connections between ethnicity and poverty in Latin America. Professor Mayer described the history of indigenous peoples’ struggles to preserve their culture and gain political autonomy. Maradiaga followed up by saying this history is essential to examining poverty in modern times. He left Nicaragua at the age of 13, by himself, to avoid a fate typical of indigenous children, who are forced into military service.
Powers described the situations of sugar cane workers in the Dominican Republic, almost entirely from Haiti, who live in primitive conditions in the Dominican. Audience member Teri Stone-Godena, a Yale School of Nursing professor and leader of YSN trips to the DR, commented that even if medical care is available, workers delay seeking help for themselves or their families as a diagnosis may mean losing their jobs and their company-owned homes. Maradiaga added that, in a Nicaraguan opinion poll, the majority declared that poverty is the number one national threat, above even war or terrorism.
As many in the audience had lived or volunteered in Latin America, panelists were asked about the best ways to help people in need, without creating new problems.
The panel was followed by a silent auction of pottery and other crafts brought from Nicaragua, to raise funds for health care in that country.