On the first day of my Political Violence: State and Society class, Professor Consuelo Cruz asks us if any of us are from countries that are currently dealing with or have dealt with political violence. With the relentless dictator, Daniel Ortega, in mind, I raise my hand.
She asks, “What’s your name, where are you from?” to which I somewhat shyly respond, “Valeria. I’m from Nicaragua.”
I usually don’t get to hear my name pronounced correctly, nor do I introduce myself with a proper Spanish accent--it simply confuses people. Professor Cruz, however, certainly knows how to pronounce my name and her eyes immediately light up with an unmistakable sense of surprise--Nicaragua’s a country the size of a bean and it’s 6 million habitants are difficult to spot outside of the country and Miami, Florida.
“Valeria!” she says in a beautiful, oh-so-beautiful accent. “Well, what a coincidence I am from Nicaragua too!”
I immediately feign surprise and a smile, hiding the fact that I had known she was Nicaraguan all along: aside from wanting to contextualize my country’s history of political corruption and frequent violent occurrences, finding out that she was from my country had encouraged me to press the enroll button. Though my reasoning for joining the class was partly silly (can you blame me? I haven’t met an in-the-flesh non-familial Nicaraguan in nearly eight years!) I can truly say that Professor Cruz’s Political Violence In States and Society, is my favorite class of the semester.
At first, I felt like a fish out of water--the class is full of PoliSci and International Relations majors who are already familiar with the theories we discuss in class and have years’ worth of political and global knowledge to pull from. I often struggled to grasp the concepts in our weekly readings and found myself staring at pages that were more yellow than white (my highlighters were dehydrating quickly.) Despite my initial struggles with the readings, the class is always a treat. Professor Cruz is a talented speaker who immerses you in her intellectual banter and explanations. She’s such a captivating lecturer that she doesn’t even utilize slides or any sort of supplement to her teaching--just the occasional scribble on the humble blackboard that sits behind her. The class consists of her dissecting the assigned readings in a format that plays out like a story and she frequently prompts our class for questions. Though I always feel like I’m still letting certain concepts marinate and rarely find myself raising my hand, her answers to others’ questions are always well-articulated and constructive. Occasionally, she’ll toss in a personal anecdote or story that leaves me wanting to go to her office hours and ask her more and more questions. She’s got a very witty, Professor-like sort of humor (whatever that means) that’s never overdone and the familiar Central-American twang in her voice is like music to my ears. Most of all, on Mondays and Wednesdays from three to four-fifteen, I feel like I’m in the presence of someone who holds so much knowledge and has so much to offer.
If you’re interested in truly understanding the complexity and theories behind political violence, need to fulfill an annoying distribution requirement or are majoring in Political Science or International Relations, be sure to take a class taught by Professor Cruz.