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Cuban Political Activist Ramón Colás to Speak at
UW-Eau Claire March 25

RELEASED: March 12, 2008

Ramón Colás
Ramón Colás

EAU CLAIRE — The Spanish Business Association at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will host a presentation by Cuban political activist Ramón Colás from 5-6 p.m. March 25 in the Presidents Room of Davies Center.

Colás is the founder of the Cuban Independent Libraries Project and director of the Mississippi Consortium for International Development in Jackson, Miss.

Since 1994, Colás has been one of the leaders of the growing pro-democratic movement in Cuba. In 1998, he founded the Cuban Independent Libraries Project following Fidel Castro's declaration that in Cuba there were no prohibited books. Today, the project includes a network of more than 100 libraries throughout the island.

After repeated harassment and arrests, Colás went into exile in the United States in December 2001.

"The Spanish Business Association has never before brought such an accredited individual to our university," said SBA president senior Chase Sova, Spooner. "We are very proud to introduce Sr. Colás. I think it says a lot about the quality of our organization that he has agreed to speak to us."

During the presentation, Colás will explain how and why he organized Home Family Libraries in his neighborhood in Cuba and the consequences he faced as a result.

Colás has met with many prominent political figures, including President George W. Bush in 2003. He has given many press conferences at the headquarters of the United Nations and testified before diverse legislative bodies such as the U.S. House Committee on International Relations and The United Nations Commission on Human Rights. In 2007, he was a guest speaker in the White House and met with former President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel.

According to Sova, the format of the SBA presentation will give students an opportunity to meet and ask questions of Colás and establish connections in the international community.

Colás' presentation, to be conducted entirely in Spanish, is free and open to students, faculty and community members.

UW-Eau Claire offers the option of a business/professions emphasis with its liberal arts Spanish major. Professor of Spanish and SBA adviser Dr. Juan Carlos Chaves hopes the presentation will be of interest to other students enrolled in Spanish classes, as well as those who have studied abroad in Spanish-speaking countries.

"Faculty and students will learn about the social-political situation in Cuba," said Chaves. "They also will learn about a totalitarian dynamic society and how the effect of this ideology paralyzed a country."

Dr. Humberto Vidaillet from Marshfield Clinic, who will act as a translator for Colás when he speaks in several UW-Eau Claire classes, said Colás will explain how the Cuban people can live in a country that claims one of the highest adult literacy rates in the world (97 percent) and yet remain unable to fully use core skills due to brutal government censorship.

The Spanish Business Association meets monthly, inviting native speakers of Spanish from all professions to share their work experiences and how they came to hold their present positions. The association serves as a bridge between the university and the larger community.

This event is funded by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

For more information, contact Dr. Juan Carlos Chaves at 715-836-4287 or chavesjc@uwec.edu, or Chase Sova at sovaca@uwec.edu.

-30-

NC/NW

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