On January 27th President Michael D. Higgins opened an exhibition in UCC that celebrates the role of Irish immigrants in Latin America, and highlights Ireland and Latin America’s shared history of colonialism, and subsequent independence and revolutionary struggles.
The exhibition is based on prominent Irish figures who were involved in independence and revolutionary struggles across Latin America. It focuses specifically on the stories of Irish men and women whom migrated to various countries in the region, and to the Caribbean, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. President Michael D Higgins remarked that Latin America has provided the world with important examples of socially inclusive economic governance.
President Higgins, whom next month will become the first serving Irish president to make an official visit to Peru, Colombia and Cuba next month, praised the remarkable feat of the Latin American countries who have succeeded in taking 90m people out of poverty between 2000 and 2012. He also said it was the only region in the world which managed to reduce income inequality during the first decade of the 21st Century.
Speaking at the opening of an exhibition on the Irish in Latin America at University College Cork, Mr.Higgins said that Irish men and women had played a profound role in the development of the modern and independent republics of the region. However, he said the exhibition, curated by Dr Margaret Brehony, did not shirk from showing what he described as the complex truth that, alongside those Irish workers who were exploited as railroad workers in Cuba, were families of Irish origin who operated large sugar plantations worked by slaves.
UCC staff and students have been invited to view this major exhibition, which is a celebration of Irish figures who helped to shape art and cultural heritage, intellectual tradition, scientific scholarship as well as politics and foreign policy throughout Latin America. People like Daniel O’Leary, who was born in Cork, son of a butter merchant and who emigrated to South America in 1817 and became the aide-de-camp to the great Liberator of the Americas, Simon Bolívar, or Eliza Lynch, a national heroine in Paraguay and mistress of the Paraguayan dictator, Francisco Solano-López (1826-1870), immortalized in Anne Enright’s novel, The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch (2002) and in numerous films and books. Also on display are a selection of artefacts and manuscripts from UCC’s collection relating to the Irish presence in Latin America. Included are emeralds from Colombia, sent by Daniel O’Leary as part of a gift to Queen’s College in 1852.
The exhibition is also open to the public from the 25th January and from 27th-29th January, in the Aula Maxima, UCC.
The exhibition is also showing in the Glucksman Gallery foyer, from the 7th-12th of February, and in the O’Rahilly Building from February 16th-18th.