Castro the topic of discussion at the first ‘Cuba Coffee Chat’

Students and faculty gathered Tuesday afternoon to attend the first talk of the new “Cuba Coffee Chat” series, a monthly open discussion of Cuba- and Cuban-related topics presented by the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.

The talk took place on the second floor of the University of Miami Bookstore. Complimentary pastelitos and coffee were provided to the nearly 30 people in attendance, attended by both Cubans and non-Cubans.

“The series is open for all students,” said Armand Garcia, coordinator of the series and part-time lecturer of Women and Gender Studies. “We want to widen the conversation on Cuba for students of all backgrounds and to make Cuba relevant in a more collegiate way.”

Garcia started the series because he thought it would be a great idea to bring the resources from the ICAAS right on campus and to design a series of talks that were specifically catered towards students.

“We wanted a series of events that were informative and scholarly, but also accessible, informal and pretty relaxed,” he said. “We want students to feel that they can learn new things and make new friends at the same time.”

The discussion topic at the event was “Cuba after Fidel” and was given by Brian Latell, senior research associate at the ICCAS and former CIA analyst.

Abbi Knorr, a senior, said beforehand that she looked forward to the event.

“We’re actually studying this in my Gender and Sexuality in Modern Cuba class, so I’m excited,” she said.

Latell spent the time talking about his book, “After Fidel,” and the political changes that may occur under Raul Castro’s rule following Fidel Castro’s death.

“Whether you love him or hate him, Fidel was one of the most remarkable figures in modern Latin American history,” Latell said during the event. “What he did at home in Cuba was an absolute calamity.

“I don’t think he’s going to come back,” he continued. “I don’t think Raul wants him back and I don’t think the people want him back.”

Those in attendance were able to ask questions and speculate about Cuba’s future, while also given the chance to receive signed copies of Latell’s book.

Vanessa Eiroa, a sophomore, rushed to receive her own signed copy before leaving to her next class.

“The talk was very informative and he presented facts that are not as known to the public about the Castro brothers, so it was much more personal in that respect,” she said.

Jaime Suchlicki, director of ICCAS, also seemed pleased with the first talk of the series.

“It was very successful. This is a way for students to find out what we do at the institute and for us to reach out to them,” he said. Suchlicki added that he hopes more students will attend upcoming series events.

Topics that may be discussed in the future include Cuban history and business oppurtunities in a post-Castro Cuba.

The “Cuba Coffee Chat” series will take place the last Tuesday of each month at the UM Bookstore from 2 to 3 p.m. Location and times are subject to change.

Natalie Riera may be contacted at