Professor of History Allen Wells, just back from a yearlong sabbatical devoted to studying the history of Latin American democracy, presented a lecture on his research during the first faculty lunch seminar of 2013-2014.
Over soup, salad, and sandwiches in the Main Lounge of Moulton Union on Sept. 11, Wells told fellow faculty members about the contributions of Representative Charles Porter, an outspoken opponent of Latin American dictatorships (and U.S. support thereof) during the Cold War era.
Representative Porter carried on his crusade in an environment of death threats from the dictator Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic (who was known to send hit men onto U.S. soil to “disappear” troublesome individuals). Hailed as a champion of democracy by Latin American citizens, the congressman faced stiff resistance by anti-communist proponents in the U.S. who counted Trujillo and other dictators as international allies.
Porter was ultimately edged out of Congress for having supported Fidel Castro before the Cuban revolutionary turned communist. Despite the political defeat, Wells said, Porter helped build momentum for a movement that has led to democracy in nearly all Latin American countries today.
Wells’ talk kicked off a series of lunch seminars that bring together faculty from all across Bowdoin’s academic curriculum. The seminars continue weekly for the duration of the academic year.