Opa Meets Ole: Hellenic Studies in Mexico

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – The Onassis Foundation (USA) has made its mark in the Hellenic diaspora in North America, but their endeavors in other parts of the Western Hemisphere are less well known.

The University Seminars Program of the Onassis Foundation (USA) presented a Conference in Mexico City, Μexico entitled Present and Future of Hellenic Studies in Latin America (Presente y futuro de los estudios helenicos en America Latina) on October 29.

Organized in cooperation with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Mexican Association of Classical Studies (AMEC), under the auspices of the Embassy of Greece in Mexico, the conference took place at the Palace of the School of Medicine.

Fifteen scholars from numerous Latin American countries, the United States, and Greece representing a variety of disciplines including Classics, Archaeology, Philosophy, Linguistics, and Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies presented and debated their views.

The conference squarely faced the challenges such as the decline of the interest in Classical Studies in certain countries, such as Colombia and Cuba, and considered action that can be taken.

The Foundation funds a collaborative program between the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil and a local middle school which was presented as a model for other countries and in Havana, high school students visiting classical art collections at university museums stimulate interest in Classical Studies.

The promotion of the Hellenic cultural production in non-academic environments, by means of organizing activities at libraries and cultural centers that will aim to engage the general public and demonstrate why antiquity is important for modernity and how the classical past informs, and shapes, the Latin American present—in particular the artistic production of the region, including its literature, theater, painting, sculpture, and architecture.

The Foundation has promoted Hellenic Studies in Latin American through conferences and educational activities such as the four conferences that have been presented in the last thirteen years.

According to a Foundation press release, “The conference also took note of the Scholarships Program of the Parent Onassis Foundation in Athens, which offers the opportunity to scholars for research in Greece, as well as to the opportunities offered to scholars for interaction and synergy through the University Seminars Program of the Affiliate Onassis Foundation in the USA.”

“Finally, the conference noted the existing possibilities of cooperation with Greek Universities or the Hellenic Ministry of Education through special research programs, (called ESPA in Greek or NSRF in English National Strategic Reference Framework) or summer language and culture courses,” the release also noted.

Among the initiatives that were discussed was the creation of a database of universities throughout Latin America with programs in Classical and Modern Greek that will facilitate greater collaboration between the Foundation and academic institutions in Latin America, as well as between universities. The funding and management of the database is currently under discussion.