Rethinking the U.S.-Cuban Embargo: Globalization and U.S. Minorities at the Latin American School of Medicine, Havana

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In a world that seems to grow increasingly more connected with each new telecommunications innovation and international policy, Cuba remains an exception. Shelved on the United States' international radar due to decades-old political conflict, Cuba is ironically located only a few hundred miles from the tip of Florida, yet strict embargos and tightened security have largely kept the global exchange that typifies U.S. interactions with other proximal nations to a virtual nil. But in 2001, a group of American minority students defied their home country’s law and flew to Cuba via Mexico to begin their medical school education. The Latin American School of Medicine in Havana (ELAM, as it is abbreviated in Spanish), was explicitly founded by the Castro regime to educate foreign medical students, but did not formally accept students from the United States until 2001, when U.S. politicians and religious leaders from the traditionally-poor South and the Bronx expressed the need for more doctors in their districts. Since then, the program has persisted to benefit U.S. minorities who typically display low rates of matriculation into graduate schools. The implications of having American professionals be educated at the charity of an enemy state are great. I propose that while minority U.S. students at ELAM did not explicitly matriculate there with any set, pro-Cuba political ideologies, their controversial decision to cater to their own personal and economic wellbeing despite the U.S. government’s ideology effectively questions the viability of the U.S.’s current anti-Castro policy, revealing the power globalization and a commitment to the rights of education and healthcare have over embargos in an increasingly connected world. The threat of programs like ELAM will only exacerbate in the future as the U.S.’s underserved populations grow and further question the dearth of domestic opportunities for them, especially in an increasingly globalized world, where opportunities beyond U.S. borders readily exist.


Keywords: Cuba, Education, Minorities, Embargo, United States, Globalization
Stream: Globalisation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , , Rethinking the U.S.-Cuban Embargo, Rethinking the U.S.-Cuban Embargo,


Rosa Mathai

Student Researcher, The Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University
New Orleans, LA, United States Virgin Islands

Rosa Mathai is a senior pursuing joint B.A./B.S. degrees in Latin American Studies and Cellular and Molecular Biology. Originally from Leesville, LA, she is a graduate of the Louisiana School for Math, Sciences, and the Arts with Distinction in History. Her experience with Latin American Studies began in high school, when she researched and defended a Social Studies Fair project on the role of Mexican migrant labor in the U.S. Agricultural Industry, culminating in state-level honors and a senior thesis. Since then she has parlayed stints in Mexico, Costa Rica, and a dental assistant job in Cusco, Peru into internships with Conde Nast Traveler Magazine and applications to dental school. Committed to journalism, she serves as Main Section Editor of the Tulane Hullabaloo newspaper and is a free-lance writer for Men’s Fitness Magazine, among other publications. Her interests in Latin America include U.S.-Latin American relations, Public Health, Human Rights, and Indigenous Cultures.

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