Heritage and Service

CAUSA crystallized in 1994 when Cesar Conde ’95 and Carlos Zumpano ’96 bumped into each other in the Yard and discovered they’d had the same idea: Cuban-American students at the College needed a core around which to focus their joy in celebrating and sharing their heritage, and their efforts to promote a free and democratic Cuba. Since then, the Cuban-American Undergraduate Student Association at Harvard (www.harvardcausa.org) has been a model for similar groups at other universities and has reached out to Cuban Americans in the graduate schools and to alumni. 

On October 1-3, CAUSA’s current members, led by co-presidents Daniel Balmori ’11 and David Garcia ’11, convened the group’s first alumni conference: to foster new avenues for service and activism and build bridges across generations. “A Community of Experiences” combined the serious--including talks by former Miami mayor Manny Diaz, a fellow at the Institute of Politics; Modesto A. Maidique, president emeritus of Florida International University, a visiting professor at the Business School; and Jorge I. Domínguez, vice provost for international affairs and Madero professor of Mexican and Latin American politics and economics--with breaks for networking, Cuban fare, and an evening of dominoes, music, and dancing. 

CAUSA’s mission statement calls for “passionately promoting” its goals; the gathering reflected that. Alumni stressed the duty, and satisfaction, of sharing the benefits of a good education. Conde (now president and chief operating officer of Univision Networks) and Zumpano described their projects to help low-income Hispanic youths; Suzanne Besu ’01 told of home visits to persuade protective Cuban-American parents to send their high-achieving children to cold and distant Cambridge. The undergraduates proved their passion in mounting the conference. Their hard work, said Teresita Alvarez-Bjelland ’76, M.B.A. ’79, the Harvard Alumni Association’s first Hispanic president, left her feeling “invigorated, inspired, touched, proud, and hopeful.”

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