A True No Man's Land

Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the U.Va. culture. In her fourth year at U.Va., Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?


The way my family tells stories of the sugar mill in Cuba, one would swear it was paradise. Dolores was the pride of my family going back generations, and even though they fled the little piece of heaven 56 years ago, the oldest of my living relatives can never accept that the rural town is anything less than home. When I first traveled to Cuba last summer, however, it was clear that the communists had since erased Dolores from the map and replaced it with Jaime Lopez, a town where the sugar mill stands as a mere carcass, and only the oldest townspeople remember why the massive smoke stack shoots to the sky at the town’s center.

As Cuba finally begins to transition to a more open political and economic system, one incredibly contentious question will dominate the minds of millions of people: do Cuban refugees have the right to take back the land that the communist government seized from them, or does this property now belong to the families who stayed through the hardship and have called these places home for three generations?

I would be thrilled by the opportunity to lead a flash seminar on this very question at the University of Virginia, as it is a critical issue with implications reaching far beyond Cuba. I believe that --...

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