Letter from the Director - Spring 2021

March 8, 2021

Dear Friends of DRCLAS,

To say that 2020 was a challenge would be an understatement. From a democratic crisis to a global pandemic to a long overdue reckoning with racial inequalities, this past year forced us to look hard at who we are and how we interact as a society.

The pandemic drastically affected every aspect of life around the world—and here at Harvard. We have seen major changes here: few students on campus, virtual classes, and remote work for most. Staff and faculty from all departments and schools are working tirelessly to provide students with the best educational experience possible.

These changes certainly affected my first semester as Director of DRCLAS (I have yet to set foot in my office!). Although I have been affiliated with DRCLAS since joining Harvard more than 20 years ago, taking over the Center's leadership has given me a fresh perspective on our role at Harvard and beyond. I am incredibly proud of how the DRCLAS team transitioned to virtual platforms this year without ever losing sight of our core mission of connecting Harvard students and faculty to Latin America. This year, we are prioritizing three major issues facing Latin America: the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) the challenge to democracy; and (3) and the struggle for racial equality.

Tackling our second full semester of remote learning has been challenging, at times frustrating, but also inspiring. We have planned more than 40 virtual webinars, lectures, and conferences covering a variety of topics including the impact of COVID-19, democratic resilience in Brazil, food security in the Americas and the constitutional process in Chile. The Tuesday Seminar Series, which typically brings one speaker to campus each week, instead features discussion among over 40 faculty and scholars over the course of 12 weeks focusing on the environment, racial relations, and democracy and political elections in the region. After last year's successes with the Amazon and Chocolate issues, ReVista will host a public launch of the Winter 2021 issue on spirituality and religion.

The Art, Film, & Culture program, in collaboration with the Department of History of Art and Architecture, will present a series of events this semester under the initiative Curating Architecture Across the Americas. Each session will discuss the role of architecture exhibitions and collections in the expanding world of curatorial practices and cultural debates. I also invite you to take in our digital exhibition, Documenting the Impact of Covid-19 through Photography: Collective Isolation in Latin America. With more than 350 submissions from photographers across Latin America, the exhibition provides a heartbreaking and breathtaking look at how the pandemic has affected the region.

We will continue to collaborate with student groups on programming they spearhead relevant to Latin America and the Caribbean. Supporting our students is vital to our mission and allows us to connect with them in new and interesting ways, as with as last semester’s, ¿Hubo un golpe de estado en Perú? in collaboration with the Harvard Association of Peruvian Students. This was our first event livestreamed to Facebook, reaching over 5,000 people that evening alone.

We have ensured that our students don’t miss out on educational and cultural experiences in the region due to travel restrictions. Our usual Summer Internship Program was relaunched in 2020 as the Remote Summer Program, with 44 student participants working remotely at 40 different organizations and participating in cultural and language sessions. We employed a similar model to offer a virtual version of our popular Winternship Program, this year expanding from Mexico to offer internships in Chile, Peru, Argentina,and Paraguayfor nearly 50 participants. The Mentoring and Language Acquisition in Brazil (MLAB) was held this winter with nine Harvard students virtually mentoring 14 high school students in Brazil. Finally, DRCLAS has launched the Independent Experience Stipend for currently enrolled undergraduate and graduatestudents to support a remoteinternship experience in the field/industry of their choice, with an emphasis on underrepresented geographies, fields and populations.

We invite you to join us, spread the word about our student and faculty opportunities, support our work with a gift, or get involved.

Thank you for your continued support of DRCLAS. We look forward to seeing you soon.   


Steven Levitsky
Director, DRCLAS