Hei Carlos,

Thanks for the reply and your explanations. I would have enjoyed participating in the class.

In my own teaching practice I employ both etic and emic perspectives. I present the weaknesses and strengths of both and I don’t promote one over the other. I use literature, film and ethnographic studies as my preferred immersive tools. I am not a values orientations junkie and I advocate combining the emic and etic perspectives in research. Once a year I have been asked to teach specifically about values orientations in our ICIR program. In my MA thesis I used qualitative methods to conduct a critical review of an etic theorist. I’m not sure where you are coming from regarding your comments about values studies but it seems you don’t know my work very well.

I thought that I detected some argumentation and cheerleading against the U.S. in your ICIR post. It wouldn’t bother me in a political science class and of course you are free to say whatever you want. But I am uncomfortable about taking sides in an IC class. I have no intent in my reply to respond directly to your accusations. And telling me that people in the United States are unable to obtain objective news information due to censorship is precisely what I was suggesting we should avoid in an IC classroom setting. There is no link to science in making such a provocation and I see that you chose to do so off the ICIR info list. The ICIR list is not used as a pulpit for argumentation. This list includes many alumni of the program from the last ten years or so. Your very broad declaration of censorship in the U.S. is an unsubstantiated and quite subjective opinion that could not easily be proven. It would not be surprising, however, if the news was indeed different across cultures since most everything is.

One does not have to look far in U.S. news sourcing to find just about any slant or bias imaginable. In this sense our press is “free” to say what it wants, and this often reflects the views of editors. The U.S. government, through its myriad spokespeople, does decide what to say and what not to say officially. The Mexican government does the same based on its own national interests. But this is true of every sort of large organization, not just governments. I doubt that you could prove direct U.S. government censorship of the media any more than I could prove Mexican government censorship.

Based on my years in the newspaper business, my own subjective assessment would be that there are a range of editorial slants in U.S. news reporting, comprising the full range of liberal, centrist and conservative perspectives. Even so, the U.S. press is mostly viewed as liberal and also skeptical of governments both at home and abroad. Readers are quite aware of editorial leanings and most do not rely on a single news source. Many Americans also use news sources located outside U.S. borders. Embedded reporters in war theaters are subject to government censorship, but most journalists in conflict theaters act and report independently. Government censorship is not the same as editorial slant, and is an increasingly difficult thing to conduct in the Internet age. Western media companies are dealing with this same issue now in China. There have been occasions where the U.S. government has asked news organizations at home to curtail or delay reporting events in which elements of the story have national security consequences. In these cases the news organizations in the end have to make a decision about what to do or not do.

I myself have an emerging but yet incomplete opinion about this hotel incident. I would not care to rush to judgement and remain open to developments. But trying to convince one another in IC class about which side is right or wrong does not further a solution in an IC classroom and may make things decidedly uncomfortable for participants. You said that the topics were discussed in class in order to demonstrate how impossible things can be, and this hotel incident does seem to be an impossible or at least extremely difficult situation to mediate. If I am wrong about my perceptions of cheerleading in your post then I must apologize. It did seem to me that you had put your foot in your mouth. If you did, then join the club. I’ve done so many times myself and I keep doing it.

These sorts of issues are, as you well point out, extremely interesting and bound in external and historical contexts, keeping in mind that recording and interpreting history are also culturally bound processes. Discussing these issues is important to me but taking critical stands either for or against specific cultures is not something I would feel comfortable doing in an IC class, either as a teacher or a student. I wonder if anyone spoke out against Islamic cultures in class regarding the Islam cartoon matter? We had a similar classroom dilemma in September 2001. How did the discussion go regarding the cartoons?

I do think you are incorrect about one particular aspect of this hotel incident-

“The US can impose any law to their citizens if it is approved by the US congress, but it cannot be enforced outside their borders without an international treaty, in this case it came into a conflict with Mexican law against any kind of discrimination and the impossibility to confiscate assets from particulars in Mexico without a federal order, as they confiscated the money from the representation.”

Although you are correct that the U.S. cannot physically enter Mexico to assert the the Helms-Burton law, those Americans and the American owners of the hotel are still bound by the law. The law is quite clear whether one likes the law or not (I do not). Your assertion seems to be that the U.S. government entered Mexican borders to enforce its laws. It appears that the “enforcement” in this matter was done over the telephone. I cannot arrest anyone over the telephone. I am mystified how the meeting ever came about, and I’m sure this is being explored in the background now. The U.S. government appears to have informed those involved, perhaps as the government became aware of it, and it seems to have been the hotel owners/managers that decided it was best to comply or face the consequences in the States. It will be interesting to see how it turns out. By the way, you and I are bound both by Finnish law and by our respective home laws and by mutually agreed treaties between Finland, the EU and our respective countries. I hope you are up on your Finnish and EU laws : ) If you decide to stay in Finland life gets a bit more complicated for you.

Ironically, it seems that your opponents in this matter are Cuban-Americans, the people that are putting most of the pressure on the U.S. government. The Hispanic population in the U.S. has exploded in the last two decades and now has significant political influence. I spent much of my time in 90s helping Hispanics acculturate in the U.S., and met very few people that were supportive of Castro’s government.

Why would the Mexican government want to handle the hotel incident indirectly, by conducting a site inspection and then producing defects in order to close the hotel? While this might seem clever in one sense, it leaves the moral issues unattended. I think the question regarding discrimination is worth pursuing, and apparently now will be limited to accusations. If there was money confiscated from the Cuban representatives by the hotel this would seem to be difficult to justify. If this did happen, was the money returned? On what basis would it be kept? I think it was good that the meeting was relocated. Some aspects of this situation seem to fit with a set up. If the meeting were first located properly then this would not have happened. I wonder who chose to locate the meeting at an American owned hotel, and wether such a move was politically motivated and designed to create a public crisis. And along these lines, I wonder how the U.S. government found out about it, and whether they were tipped off by someone with political motivations. The situation is ripe for all kinds of unpleasant yet interesting speculations.

As for me, I look forward to visiting Cuba one day. A Finnish friend and I have discussed it but I would have to skirt the ban unless I could arrange some sort of academic premise and obtain a permit. I spent last February in Ecuador, where the idea of a side trip to Cuba came up but the idea was lost in existing plans. At the same time I realize there are two sides to the Cuba question, and that there are tens of thousands of patriotic Cubans who are not welcome in Cuba by the present government.

Being over fifty, I feel that the cold war contexts that were centered on Cuba are now lost on most everyone. As you point out about historical contexts, how could one approach the current Cuban question without these contexts? The cold war was a tough period to grow up in. My father was on alert constantly as a fighter pilot, and I recall a pervasive fear that at any time the bombs would start falling. “Duck and cover” was the slogan for us kids at school. My family was literally between the wall and the sword during the Cuban missile crisis whilst my father was deployed. And to think that all of that came out of the embers of World War II, a war that we were most reluctant to become involved in. I admit that I have no idea what Mexico did during the two so-called world wars.