November 22, 2002

Latin American Civ program to change locations

Despite ongoing Argentinean political and economic problems, the University has decided to go ahead with its Latin American Civilization study abroad program in Buenos Aires during winter quarter 2003. According to University officials, the program will almost certainly be moved to Oaxaca, Mexico after this year.

"[There is] a strong possibility—in fact, a likelihood—that the program will shift to Mexico," said Lewis Fortner, associate dean of students in the College and assistant director of foreign studies. He was careful to stress, though, that the decision to move next year's program is not finalized and probably will not be until January.

Last year, political instability in Argentina forced the University to relocate its Buenos Aires study abroad program to Barcelona, Spain at the last minute. That move marked the first time that a University study abroad program was cancelled for any reason.

Approximately two-thirds of the students originally scheduled to attend the Buenos Aires trip followed the program to Barcelona.

This year, the ongoing political and economic instability is still a concern, but not enough of one to justify another cancellation. According to director of foreign studies Francisco Santamarina, the recently scheduled Argentinean elections, set for March of 2003, even serve as an added attraction for going ahead with the Buenos Aires program this winter.

Although citing the Argentinean political situation as a factor in the decision to move the program to Oaxaca, Santamarina said that it "is not a reflection of anything bad about Buenos Aires, but is instead an opportunity to be in Mexico." The University has greater faculty involvement in Oaxaca, which is crucial to the success of a study abroad program.

"It's very difficult to run a program in a part of the world in which no one on the Chicago faculty has a stake," Fortner said.

Oaxaca, located in the southern part of Mexico on the Pacific coast, also has better geographic proximity to all four of the major stages of Latin American civilization: Pre-Columbian, Colonial, Early Modern, and Modern. Despite the more stable state of the Mexican economy relative to that of Argentina, Oaxaca state remains the Mexican state with the lowest per capita income.

Buenos Aires was originally chosen as the site of the study abroad program four years ago due not only to its status as a major world city but also because of its connections to the University. The University was already involved with the Fundación Ortega y Gasset through the Toledo, Spain study abroad program. The Fundación's branch in Buenos Aires, then, served as a convenient place from which to organize a new Latin American Civilization study abroad program.

The program has been very successful ever since, with the 2002 cancellation being the only major problem since the program's inception.

The University plans to announce its final decision regarding next year's Latin American Civilization study abroad program location in January.