Located at the foot of the flourishing Sierra Nevada mountains, Santa Marta, Colombia, combines the history of European colonization, the indigenous presence, and the mestizo, black, and Afro-descendant presence in its city. Two Colgate University students accompanied Mahadevi Ramakrishnan, senior lecturer in French, to Santa Marta last month to present at the 44th Caribbean Studies Conference, hosted by the Caribbean Studies Association.
Devin Ferri ’21 and Finn Schuemann ’21 earned the opportunity to attend the conference due to their performance in Ramakrishnan’s Core French Caribbean course. “Their deep enthusiasm and commitment for learning about the Caribbean, as well as their academic excellence, set Devin and Finn apart,” Ramakrishnan said.
The conference represented a diversity of cultures, with a central theme titled The Caribbean in Times of Tempest: Ethnicities, Territorial Resistances, and Epistemic Poetics. Ramakrishnan moderated a round-table discussion about identity movements in the French Caribbean. As part of the panel, Ferri and Schuemann discussed how French Caribbean history has informed the development of the identity movements Négritude, Antillanité, Créolité, and Indianité.
For Schuemann, traveling to Santa Marta meant reconnecting with his roots. “This trip meant a lot to me since I am Colombian, and it was my first time going there,” he said.
To prepare for the panel, Ferri and Schuemann studied current literature on pre-abolition social dynamics in the French Caribbean and post-abolition identity movements.
“Participating in this conference allowed me to see why it is still important to study history,” Ferri said. “By interacting with Caribbean culture and language in a more intimate manner, I’ve formed a better understanding of the ways in which history shines through in the present.”
Ramakrishnan believes the annual conference creates a valuable and transformative learning experience. “Students gain self-confidence and knowledge from being in Colombia and engaging with local scholars and other Caribbeanists,” she said.