AALL 2017 Recap: Authors of the Mexican Law and Legal Research Guide win the Reynolds & Flores Publication Award!

The Reynolds and Flores Publication Award is named after the authors of the Foreign Law Guide, a source that we all gratefully consult on daily basis. This award recognizes FCIL-SIS member(s) who have created a publication that enhances the professional knowledge and capabilities of law librarians. Winning publications may be print, digital, or electronic initiatives. Thus, journal articles, treatises, symposia papers, digitization projects, websites, databases, and ebooks are all eligible for consideration. This year, all authors of the Mexican Law and Legal Research Guide won the Reynolds & Flores Publication Award: Bianca T. Anderson, Marisol Floren-Romero, Julienne E. Grant, Jootaek Lee, Lyonette Louis-Jacques, Teresa M. Miguel-Stearns, Jonathan Pratter, and Sergio Stone. Julienne and Jonathan, as co-editors of the Guide, accepted the award on behalf of the group.

The Guide was most recently published in March of  2016 in Volume 35, Issue 1, of the Legal Reference Services Quarterly.  It covers all types of  primary sources of law and secondary legal literature, including international agreements, state gazettes, law journals, textbooks, and monographs.  Additionally, it filled a gap in the literature: it contains an extensive bibliography of secondary literature in English on Mexican law and legal research, which is not found in other research guides or treatises on Mexican law and legal research. Since its publication, it has received approximately 500 views (on the Taylor & Francis platform that hosts Legal Reference Services Quarterly) and over 200 SSRN downloads.  

The Guide is a significant contribution to our field in terms of its content, but it is also a fantastic example of the quality of work we can achieve when we collaborate with each other for the benefit of our profession.  Congratulations to all!

Cuba 101: It’s Complicated

Cuba - La Revolucion es invencible sign

By: Julienne E. Grant

I spent the week of May 21 in Cuba. Right now, the U.S. government forbids its citizens to visit Cuba as tourists per se, but we can travel there within the scope of 12 permitted categories. I joined an organized tour that included some fascinating “person-to-person” exchanges, as well as the opportunity to stay for a few nights in a casa particular (private home, like a B & B) in Cienfuegos. Our group also made side trips to Santa Clara, Trinidad, and Hemingway’s house, Finca Vigía.

Before embarking on this adventure, I had spent a great deal of time reading about Cuba, but I truly did not know what to expect on the ground.  I knew that I was in for a wild ride, however, when the power went out twice while waiting for my luggage at the Havana airport.  I learned quickly that Cuba is a complicated place, and it’s a complicated destination to visit. None of the challenges, however, bothered me too much; I just had to make some adjustments, stay alert, and be flexible. Here are some of my initial observations:

RS15Cuba_275.jpgThe Economy:  There seem to be three economies operating in Cuba. First, there is a thriving black market.  I think you can get about anything you want through it, if you have the right amount of money. Secondly, there is a flourishing tourism economy, as evidenced by the recent influx of high-end retailers like Gucci.  Tourists actually use a different currency (CUCs—pronounced “kooks”) than locals who spend money with the Cuban peso. The government runs much of the tourism industry through a military unit (Gaviota), and interesting that the most affluent Havana neighborhood I saw is purportedly filled with high-ranking military.  The third economy is the actual domestic one that involves everyday Cubans.  This economy is not in great shape, and there is evidence of it everywhere.  Buildings are crumbling, there is both urban and rural poverty, and there are shortages of basic consumer goods, including food.

El Bloqueo:  We repeatedly heard from Cubans that the U.S. Embargo is responsible for their struggling economy, and it is, for a good part. The Embargo has certainly been punishing on the Cuban people, and I think it needs to be lifted.  The Embargo, however, is not the only root of Cuba’s problems.

Cuba - Chevy imageTransportation:  Riding around Havana in an almendrón (vintage car) is a blast, but the almendrones are primarily for tourists. The transportation infrastructure overall is in terrible condition, as buses are packed and limited in number, and trains apparently haven’t been upgraded much since the 1959 Revolution. We actually saw a lot of people hitchhiking and simply standing on roadsides with money clutched in their hands as an offer for a ride.  There is definitely a kind of makeshift ride-sharing system in place, but again, you have to have money to use it.  Just as an aside, our tour bus was exceptionally nice.

Political Imagery:  I knew that Fidel Castro shunned statues of himself, and I didn’t see any of him, although his image is certainly not absent from the landscape. I didn’t see any images of Raúl, but I did see some of Hugo Chávez, including an almost life-size painting at the iconic Hotel Nacional.  (That hotel, incidentally, which is full of tourists and sometimes fab celebs, is owned and operated by the Cuban government.)

The legacy and image of Che Guevara actually seems to be ingrained most solidly in the Cuban psyche.  Images of Che are everywhere—on walls, clothes, jewelry, and in stone.  We went to Che’s mausoleum in Santa Clara, which was impressive in terms of size and aesthetics.

Other popular images in Cuba are those of José Martí and Camilo Cienfuegos.  Cienfuegos was a revolutionary in Fidel’s inner circle who presumably died when a flight he was on disappeared in October 1959.  Both Che and Camilo died young during the early years of the Revolution (before things got really bad economically during the “Special Period” in the 1990s); this may explain at least part of their continued appeal.

Education:  Universal healthcare and education are probably the Revolution’s greatest achievements.  Education is compulsory through the 9th grade, and books and uniforms are all provided by the government.  Parents take the education requirement very seriously, and they get their kids to school.  Revolutionary principles are emphasized, but schools now focus on English-language training, instead of Russian. According to UNESCO, Cuba has a literacy rate of almost 100 percent, and it showed.

As far as higher ed, there seems to be an unfortunate phenomenon occurring in terms of financial compensation for professionals with degrees.  In general, Cubans can seemingly make more money in the tourism industry—as guides, innkeepers, restauranteurs, and taxi drivers, so there is not much of a financial incentive to attend university, even though it’s free.  Our Cuban tour guide had an engineering degree, and so did the señora running my casa particular.

 

Cuba - Dance

The Arts:  Explosive and powerful.  These are the best words to describe the arts in Cuba.  Music is everywhere—in the streets, restaurants, clubs, and bars—covering all genres.  I was completely enamoured with the music and purchased a number of CDs.  The dancing was also fabulous—athletic, creative, and edgy.  We saw a modern dance troupe’s rehearsal and talked to the performers afterwards, as well as their Swiss manager (yes, un suizo). These young people are top-notch artists, akin to those in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater here.  The visual arts are also stunning, and there are lots of wonderful galleries—particularly in Old Havana and Trinidad—as well as the impressive Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.  It is remarkable to me how terrific these artists are, given some very challenging conditions, including run-down equipment and practice space, limited or no A/C, and a lack of access to art supplies.

 

Rum:  Lots of it, Havana Club.  It was good, and so were the mojitos.  For an interesting overview of the legal battles over the Havana Club brand name, see “The Rum War” (60 Minutes, Jan. 1, 2017).

Cuba - Havana Club botles.jpg

 

El Béisbol:   Baseball is HUGE in Cuba, and there are stadiums everywhere. Apparently some MLB games are now being shown on Cuban TV, although days after their actual completion, and without the participation of Cuban players who defected.  Videos of MLB games are available, however, loaded on various media and sold undergroud.  Telling Cubans I was a Chicagoan, and a fan of Los Cachorros (Cubs), resulted in a lot of smiles and nods.

Wi-Fi:  Wi-Fi is provided by the state-run telecommunications provider, ETESCA.  We had it available in the Hotel Nacional, but otherwise had to locate Wi-Fi “hotspots.”  It costs about $2 U.S. an hour to use Wi-Fi at these places (note that the average Cuban earns the equivalent of about $20-$30 U.S. per month).   University students are granted a monthly allotment of Wi-Fi megabytes, but access is highly restricted in terms of content.  (For an interesting read on how the student access works, plus some student commentary, see “Facebook ‘a la Cubana,’ la alternativa de los universitarios” (CUBANET, June 6, 2017)). Wi-Fi is supposedly now available in some private residences, but overall the island is not cyber friendly.

Cuba - PanfiloPánfilo:  Almost everyone in Cuba is familiar with comedian Luís Silva and his popular Pánfilo character portrayed on the weekly TV program, Vivir del Cuento (roughly, Live by your Wits).   Pánfilo is a retired man who valiantly and humorously faces the challenges of daily life in Cuba, ranging from product shortages to the confusion of the infamous ration books. (Cubans are each provided with a small ration of food staples each month.) Before President Obama visited Cuba last year, he and Silva as Pánfilo taped a mock phone conversation between the two that was hilarious.  The President also made a cameo appearance on Vivir del Cuento that was a big hit with Cubans. In any event, the quirky Pánfilo provides an outlet for Cubans to vent about their daily frustrations with the regime through humor, and frankly I was surprised to see this type of programming on state-run TV.

Conclusion:  The Revolution is still very much alive, but seems to be fading into the past.  Raúl Castro turned 86 on June 3, and I think he and his inner circle are out of touch with what’s happening on the street. Cubans (or perhaps Cuban-Americans) on our Havana-Miami flight applauded when we took off (and again when we landed), and apparently this rather blatant display of dissatisfaction is not uncommon on the Havana-Miami routes. My overall impression, however, is that Cubans themselves are worn down, but are remarkably resilient, and are still incredibly proud of being Cuban.  Time will certainly tell.  Perhaps the long-term legacy of the Cuban Revolution will be its achievements in education and healthcare, but whether there will be a musical called “Castro” down the road is questionable…How does the son of an immigrant Spaniard born on a Caribbean island grow up to spark a revolution?….“The world’s gonna know your name.  What’s your name, man?.” (Where is Lin-Manuel Miranda when you need him?).

Cuba - Jose Marti quote on wall

 

Introducing…Julienne Grant as the September 2016 FCIL Librarian of the Month

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Lake Bluff, Illinois; it’s a small town about halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee.  Lake Bluff is not a very happening place, but it was a joy to spend my youth there.  Exploring the ravines, riding Lake Michigan’s waves, powering a 3-speed Schwinn, and slurping blue Mr. Freeze bars (it’s an acquired taste) was my idea of fun. Imagine, kids having fun without cell phones and tablets!

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

I wouldn’t say I “selected” it; it sort of just happened.  My goals of becoming an accountant (high school), an economist (college), and a Latin American Studies bibliographer (grad school/library school), didn’t pan out. I subsequently decided to go to law school, realized I didn’t want to practice, and thus law librarianship was my best option.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

I was originally hired as a general reference librarian at Loyola, but FCIL questions immediately started coming my way, and I hit the ground running. I had not studied FCIL in law school, so I learned on the job. I found the FCIL work to be a good fit, as I have a background in foreign languages and an M.A. in Ibero-American Studies.  “Foreign and International Research Specialist” was added to my job title in 2007.

4. Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there?

I have worked at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law Library for almost 12 years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I was a Spanish major at Middlebury College, and studied in Spain and Mexico.  I don’t speak as well as I used to, but I can get by.  My real love, however, is Italian. I’ve studied intermittently since college and received my B1 CILS (Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera) in 2011.  I studied at the B2 level in Rome in 2013.  I also studied French at the Alliance Française de Chicago for a few years, but I didn’t have an affinity for it.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I just finished writing a book chapter with Teresa Miguel-Stearns (Yale Law School).  On par with that, I was awarded a bursary to attend IALL 2016 in Oxford, England (a terrific experience!).

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Dark chocolate.

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

This will probably age me, but the B-52s’ “Love Shack.”

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

I would love to be able to speak Portuguese.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you not go a day without?

I try to exercise every day.  I really enjoy swimming, but I also walk and use weight machines.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

Colleagues often ask me where my love of travel (sometimes I feel like the roaming Travelocity gnome) and interest in Latin America originated. My family is responsible.  My maternal grandparents traveled to over 100 countries—my grandfather sometimes in the pilot’s seat. Both of my parents lived abroad at some point during their childhoods (my father in South Korea, and my mother in Guatemala).   My parents and I traveled a lot to Mexico when I was growing up, and we also took a trip to Guatemala when I was in high school.

Also, my first gig out of library school was organizing a private library in a restored Moorish castle in Mallorca, Spain. Ask me about it sometime;  I’m always happy to reminisce.

Martinique’s Grand Library and “Josephine Beheaded”

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By: Julienne Grant

Happy New Year! I spent part of my holiday break cruising around the eastern part of the Caribbean.  Starting in San Juan, we stopped at five ports of call—Sint Maarten/Saint Martin, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Martinique, and Saint Thomas.  I’m in the process of writing an article on the legal systems of these islands, so I won’t dive into that material so much here. What I will do, however, is share a little about one of the more unusual public libraries I have seen—the Schœlcher library in Martinique. (Keep in mind as you read this, that I’m currently living in a city with a public library that has sculptures of green owls perched on top of it.)

Martinique is a French overseas department and territory (département et territoire d’outre-mer) and has a population of somewhere around 386,000.  Its capital, Fort-de-France, is a captivating seaside community that has a European vibe, with a Caribbean beat.  Although the French flag flies here, and the euro is king, it is the sounds of Creole and reggae that flood the city streets.

On the rue de la Liberté, across the road from a decapitated statue of Empress Josephine (more on this below), sits Fort-de-France’s crown jewel, its public library.  The building itself is an elaborate and exotic structure with a Byzantine-style cupola.  Designed by French architect Pierre-Henri Picq in 1884, the building was first erected in Paris, and then dismantled and shipped for re-assembly in Martinique. That this glorious building still stands is a testimony to the genius of its designer, as the island is prone to earthquakes and hurricanes.

The library itself is named after French abolitionist Victor Schœlcher, who drafted the 1848 decree that abolished slavery in the French colonies. Schœlcher donated his own private library in 1883 to the General Council of Martinique for the purpose of creating a public library.  One of the library’s mandates is to preserve heritage materials related to the island.

Being duly impressed with the exterior of the building, I decided to check out the interior space.   Although my French is poor, the reference librarian on duty spoke wonderful English and was kind enough to provide an impromptu tour of the place.

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Although the interior is showing signs of wear (including a few cracks resulting from earthquakes), it is still quite grand. The domed ceiling is exquisite, and there is a striking portrait of Victor Schœlcher hanging in the atrium. The collection is impressive and covers everything from literature to law, including the most current Dalloz French codes. (As an overseas region of France, French national law applies in Martinique, but can be modified to address situations specific to the island.) What really impressed me, however, was how busy the library was.  This is not simply a relic from an earlier time; it’s a working and modern library that is being heavily used.

Finally, a word about the decapitated statue of Empress Josephine across the street. Joséphine de Beauharnais, Napoleon I’s first wife, was born and raised in Martinique.  Although she may be the island’s most famous citizen, she is also probably the most despised.  Her family owned slaves, and she was purportedly instrumental in convincing Napoleon to reinstate slavery in the French colonies in 1802.  The marble statue was mysteriously beheaded in 1991 and was later splattered with red paint around Josephine’s delicate neckline.  The gory headless statue still stands, overlooking the lovely La Savane park. For an interesting read on the statue, see the Prologue (“Josephine Beheaded”) to Cultural Conundrums: Gender, Race, Nation, and the Making of Caribbean Cultural Politics (University of Michigan Press, 2006).