by Raquel Sosa Elízaga, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, ISA Vice-President for the Program of the Yokohama Congress, 2014
The XXVIIIth Congress of the Latin American Sociological Association took place from September 6 to 10 in Recife, Brazil 2011, attracting 4,578 participants and 9,716 registered students, professionals, researchers and teachers. Dozens of professors, students and fellows of the University of Recife and other Brazilian universities carried out an extraordinary collective effort to organize seven keynote lectures, nine integrative sessions, 25 thematic sessions, 52 roundtable sessions and 30 working groups. It was a vigorous, active, critical and engaging community, made up mostly of youth, that gave meaning to our debates and common quests, to the questions we formulated and the research results we presented in one of the most intense Congresses ever experienced by our Association.
Our region is one of contrasts. On the one hand, we have Mexico’s tragic loss of 50,000 victims and the urgent demand for justice and a stop to what can now be termed genocide; the constant pain arising from the destruction and snail-pace reconstruction of Haiti; the threat of having old genocide perpetrators re-establish themselves in Guatemala; new tyrants replacing the will of thousands of citizens in Honduras; the continuation of the infamous economic blockade that has threatened the freedom of the Cuban people for the last 50 years; the existence of foreign military bases in Cuba, Colombia and Puerto Rico. On the other hand, we have examples of how our people have constructed alternatives that demonstrate that we have the memory and strength to overcome the difficulties we face: Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Cuba of course and Peru more recently, have opened a compass of hope among our people, aware of the grave problems stalking the future of millions of human beings in our great region.
Latin America is the most unequal region in the world. Violence takes the lives of over 140,000 human beings a year; more than 30% of the population is struck by poverty; over 8% is illiterate. We have not done enough to prevent our universities and higher education institutions from settling into privileged positions, while thousands of human beings are unable to meet their basic needs of survival. Moreover, we have not been able to prevent our universities from becoming – whether gradually or abruptly – centers for specialization and professionalism where students and faculty are estranged from their surrounding cultural, social and political life, not to mention the context of great economic frailty.
Yet it is encouraging to see that it was in Chile, the starting point of neoliberal policies in our universities, that a libertarian movement erupted in defense of public education. As in Chile, student and faculty movements have also taken off in Uruguay, Bolivia, Brazil, Puerto Rico in defense of the public university. Many professionals and social scientists are raising their voices to demand our sovereignty, our right to decide the affairs of our public life, starting with education. In this struggle we commit ourselves to critical thinking, our best legacy to present and future generations. We thus salute the formation of the Institute of Latin American Inquiries (Instituto de Pesquisas Latinoamericanas) at the Federal University of Recife, which will undoubtedly make important contributions to regional social science debates.
Those of us present affirm our commitment to continuing the path set out by our colleagues who founded this association: Ruy Mauro Marini, Octavio Ianni, Florestán Fernandes, Agustín Cueva, René Zavaleta, Eduardo Ruiz Contardo, Lucía Sala. Among many others, we honor their memory as well as that of thousands of courageous individuals who have defeated terror, who confront femicide, racism, intolerance and genocide in our America. Our people confront all kinds of adversity threatening their dignity to survive with strength and creativity. It is our role to contribute with all of our imagination and unfaltering will, to conquer the space dreamt of by Toussaint Louverture, Hidalgo and Morelos, Bolívar, Artigas, O’Higgins and San Martín, José Martí, Benito Juárez, Sandino, Farabundo Martí, Che Guevara, Salvador Allende. “Long Live Latin American Sociology! Long live ALAS!”
Professor Elízaga’s “Final Declaration” to the ALAS Congress in Recife, was unanimously adopted by the General Assembly.