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Guest Speaker Catherine Murphy Discusses Cuban Literacy Project

Join us Tuesday, April 21, 2015, for a presentation with Dr. Catherine Murphy as she discusses her work researching and documenting the Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961, a country-wide project that "dramatically changed the nation's literacy levels within one year by organizing over 100,00 youth to teach classes in the rural areas of the country." In 2002, Murphy collected testimonies of women literacy teachers, exploring how this experience influenced their own lives and sense of self. Her efforts resulted in the award-winning documentary "Maestra." Her presentation will take place at 12:00 p.m. at the UNM Latin American & Iberian Institute (801 Yale Blvd).

MAESTRA is a 33-minute documentary that explores the experience of nine women who, as young girls, taught on the Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961. Through current day interviews from in their homes in Havana, archival film footage and still photos, we look at this moment and how it changed their lives as women. Our characters are Daysi Veitia, Gina Rey, Norma Guillard, Eloisa Hernandez, Adria & Ivonne Santana, Blanca Monett, Diana Balboa and Griselda Aguilera. We also meet Tina Gomez and her two sons, who live in the Sierra Maestra mountain range of Cuba, and housed a literacy volunteer in their home. The film begins with archival footage from the UN General Assembly in September 1960, when Cuba announced that they would eradicate illiteracy in one year. They made an open call for volunteer teachers, with a massive media campaign that went all over the country. Over 250,000 Cuban citizens volunteered - 100,000 of the volunteers were under 18 and over half of were women. Interviews, recorded testimonials, and powerful archival footage that took years to compile, tell this story that personifies the hopes and dreams of a nation and the will and courage of the young women who made this monumental endeavour possible.

Catherine Murphy is a San Francisco-based filmmaker who has spent much of the last 10 years working in Latin America. She is founder & director of The Literacy Project, a multi-media documentary project on adult literacy in the Americas. As an independent producer, Murphy's work has largely focused on social documentaries. She has field produced films like Saul Landau's Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up?, Eugene Corr's From Ghost Town to Havana, served on the production crew of Gay Cuba; and subtitled Stealing America by Dorothy Fadiman, Jaime Kibben's The Greening of Cuba, and Out and Refusenicks by Sonja de Vries. She also served an archival researcher for Susanne Rostock's recent biography of Harry Belafonte, Sing Your Song. Murphy served as senior staff producer at the TeleSur TV Washington bureau in 2006 and has produced content for PBS, TeleSur, Avila TV, Pacifica Radio National, WBAI and KPFA.

Image: Photograph from Maestra.

--Posted Wednesday, April 1, 2015.