Central America and Vienna - historic links

An international colloquium commemorating the 200th anniversary of Central American independence was hosted at the University of Vienna's Department of Romance Studies.

The event in cooperation with the City of Vienna took place in Oktober 2021. With 100 representatives of academia, politics and civil society from both Europe and America attending, the event helped bringing scholars from both sides of the Atlantic together and putting the spotlight on a part of the world that often tends to get overlooked. The colloquium provided another opportunity for Vienna to present itself as a hub for Latin American issues in Austria.

A tour to explore Vienna's history

The colloquium, whose official title was "The many-faceted Independence. The 1821 Independence of Central America in retrospective. Commemorating the 200th anniversary of Central American Independence (1821-2021)", started out with a guided tour of Vienna. Organised by the Austrian Latin America Institute, the tour took the international guests on a quest to find historical links between Vienna and Latin America.

Such links abound and can be found in the pre-WWI proletarian history of Vienna's Leopoldstadt district, around Reichsbrücke, a major bridge crossing the Danube, or among the high-rise buildings on the Danube around the Vienna International Centre. Names such as Mexikoplatz often have surprising background stories where the history of the City of Vienna intersects with that of Latin America.

Present-day challenges take centre stage

It was on 15 September 1821 that the 5 provinces of Central America (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala) declared their independence from Spain. While in the 200 years following independence the region developed largely independently, it does share traits with other parts of Latin America. The long shadow of colonialism, the imperialist hold exercised by Euro-Atlantic powers, military interventions and counter-revolutions have remained formative factors up to the present day.

International scholars, including historians, anthropologists, and political scientists, reflected on the importance of this region in a global context, while also addressing present-day challenges such as poverty, social inequalities, corruption, violence or climate change.

Austrian Latin America Institute (LAI)

The LAI is making a valuable contribution to what is referred to as the 3rd mission of institutes of higher learning by disseminating scientific insights on recent trends and developments in the region both within Vienna and beyond. At the same time, the LAI offers Latin American experts and creative artists an important platform for intercultural and socio-political dialogue. Discharging a unique blend of informational, educational and cultural functions, the LAI sees its mission as building bridges between Latin America, Austria and the EU.

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