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Discovering Cuba

September 13, 2019 GMT

West Shore Community College is continuing its exploration of the cultural, socio-political and artistic similarities and differences between the United States and other parts of the world with the third year of the Humankind series.

This year, the college will partner with other organizations in the community to examine these notions in relation to Cuba, with the theme of “Dreams, Promises and Realities: Life in Cuba and the U.S.”

The series will begin today with a presentation by Cuban-American poet, author and anthropologist Ruth Behar at 7 p.m. at the Ludington Library, 217 E. Ludington Ave.

Behar will deliver a presentation titled “Returning to Cube: Real and Imagined Journeys,” during which she will focus on her experience in her home country, and the cultural parallels between the island nation and the U.S.

“Behar is a poet, she’s a scholar, trained as an anthropologist … and she also writes young adult fiction,” said Dr. Brooke Portmann, dean of arts and sciences at WSCC and a member of the team that organizes the Humankind series. “She’s a McArthur fellow — lovingly called the ‘Genius Grant’ — but she’s very down to earth.”

Behar, who also designs books, will hold a book-building workshop with students from WSCC and local high schools on Friday.

Prior to the discussion, there will be an open house at the library, and Portmann is encouraging people to attend, even if they’ve never been to a function associated with the Humankind series before.

“Come in time for the open house, because there will be Afro-Cuban music, and (people) will get an introduction (to Humankind) and a sense of what to come back for,” Portmann said.

The open house will feature live Afro-Cuban music performed by special guests Thomas Ronquillo and Ashley McPike at 6 p.m.; Behar’s presentation will begin at 7 p.m.

WHY CUBA?

The decision to focus on Cuba dates back to the inception of Humankind, according Portmann.

“We planned initially three years for year-long activities, and when we started out, we surveyed students, faculty and staff and everyone had the same top two — Africa and the Middle East,” Portmann told the Daily News. “Everyone’s third choice was different, so we decided to go with the students’ third choice, which was Cuba.

“As we started to look at what to explore in Cuba, everyone took note of how little we knew, and yet there had been this sense that there were some things that were worth diving into and exploring.”

See The Scene in Thursday’s Ludington Daily News print or e-Edition for the full story.