By Martina Guglielmone

All featured images were taken by Laura LaRose in Aldecoa, Havana, Ciudad de la Habana

Despite Cuba’s polarized political climate, the country has developed a rather unique health care system that continues to deliver strong results, even with the challenges it has faced. Ex-president Fidel Castro believed a strong health-care system and biomedical science were “long-term mainstays of the Cuban economy”. Therefore, not only did Castro develop a system that produced a surplus of medical professionals –which became a source of foreign exchange- but he also made sure Cuba invested in constant biomedical research. This socialist, poor island has demonstrated that “through long-term, consistent investments in primary care and public health,” a country can solidify its social base, improve the quality of life of its citizens, and stimulate its economy.

On July 26, 2017, President Trump released a series of three tweets regarding transgender individuals in the military. His tweets declared that transgender individuals would be barred from any role in the military due to the need for “decisive and overwhelmingvictory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption.” The contents of the three tweets are shown below. Open Americas condemns the policy indicated by these tweets by the current administration.

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Mexico education

By Martina Guglielmone

The dysfunctionality of the Mexican educational system has been disproportionately widening the general wealth gap in the country, negatively impacting not only the lives of poorer individuals and families, but the progress of the country as a whole. Education is the fundamental base of any functional democratic society. There is overwhelming evidence proving that social conditions across the board are improved when the residents of any given community are better educated. For example, reports suggest that better education leads to higher voter turnout rates, lower levels of poverty and homelessness, and overall, higher standards of health and wellness due to a general awareness as well as access to well-rounded health care. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that with greater education, crime rates of all kinds are reduced, consequentially decreasing incarceration and marginalization rates.

Harvard University professor Ronald Ferguson, addressing the education gap, says that “we look at inequality in access to particular careers, inequality in income and wealth, inequality in the nature of political participation. All those things are mitigated by equalizing the skills that education produces. Not only the academic skills, but the dispositions, the frames of minds, the consciousness, the diligence, the sense of agency.” Simply put, the more educated a society is on average, the better it performs overall. Latin America, as the region with the highest levels of inequality in the world, is rapidly falling further behind other regions in education quality as well. More specifically, Mexico has the highest education inequality rate in the region, which as a consequence is producing broader inequality in wealth and presenting its leadership with a series of developmental obstacles of utmost complexity.

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By Laura Schroeder 

Fotografía y diseño gráfico por Andrés Ávila y Alberto Montañez/Photography and graphic design by Andrés Ávila and Alberto Montañez

El propósito de este proyecto es dar a conocer las vidas de los miembros de la economía informal en Tunja, Boyacá, Colombia y mostrar cómo cada uno contribuye a la sociedad y a la cultura; mientras los miembros de la comunidad perciben a los hombres y las mujeres que venden minutos o lustran zapatos como parte de la vida cotidiana, las fotos que tomamos y las citaciones y datos que las acompañan nos ayudan a reconocer la humanidad y el valor de cada cara, cada puesto de trabajo, y cada historia única y especial.

The purpose of this project is to illuminate the lives of members of the informal economy in Tunja, Boyacá, Colombia, showing us how each one contributes to and strengthens society as a whole. While community members see men and women selling phone minutes or shining shoes as part of quotidian life, the photos we took and the quotes and facts that accompany them help us to recognize the humanity and value in every face, every job, and every unique and special history.

Leticia, Colombia

By Laura Schroeder

Spinning Stories in the Jungle

It was pitch black save for the stars that pierced the night sky and the faint glow of bioluminescent leaves underfoot, but Manuel could see. The hum of cicadas surrounded us as we wove around the thick growth of the jungle, and I tried not to stumble over the vines that snaked up ancient trees. Pointed stick in hand, Manuel spun stories of encounters with jaguars and deceitful ex-lovers as we traipsed to the river in hopes of catching a fish to bring back to our camp, where a caiman already hung from a line alongside our hammocks.

I had just completed a U.S. State Department-sponsored Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Colombia, and two members of my cohort and I had decided to spend some of our saved stipend on a trip to the city of Leticia, which is nestled between Brazil and Peru in Amazonas, a department in the south of the country. Having already taken the obligatory boat trip down the Amazon River to see monkeys, capybaras, and birds of all hues, we tasked ourselves with planning the remainder of the trip. However, when a man stopped by our hostel advertising a jungle trek with a local Huitoto guide, we were skeptical, as we had heard horror stories of cultural tourism gone awry. Luckily for him, he was persuasive and after five minutes, we paid him a small sum to go on the trip. Luckily for us, we spent three informative days conversing with our guide, Manuel, and his grandfather and aunt about their lives in both the city and the jungle, the history of the Huitoto people, and their struggle to keep it alive.