My First Washington History Seminar

At a recent Washington History Seminar in the Woodrow Wilson Center, I learned that the United States is getting kicked out of UNESCO for failing to pay our dues for the third time. Good teamwork (* trigger warning if you have principles about clicking: that link goes to a conservative “think” tank. Their calendars make great bathroom decor. *), everybody.

After that lovely announcement, our group heard Ernesto Capello’s talk, “Latin America Encounters Nelson Rockefeller” about Rockefeller’s 1969 “goodwill” tours of Latin America (which, as one attendee pointed out, are always a great idea).

Capello discussed transnational frameworks of citizenship through recently released primary source material, particularly letters from Latin American constituents to Rockefeller asking for help with citizenship or finding jobs, or sometimes critiquing US foreign policy, threatening Rockefeller, offering advice, and asking for help.

In the Cold War context, accompanied by international radical student movements, Rockefeller’s tours went quite badly. Overall, Capello provided a solid overview of the economic, political, and national conflicts at play during 1969 through the lens of responses to Rockefeller’s visit. I’m looking forward to his forthcoming book on the topic, which is sure to be full of excellent quotes from extensive correspondence to (and from) Rockefeller’s office.

After the talk, the (NEH, Kluge, and other lucky) scholars in attendance rushed off to steal books from the Library of Congress before the government shutdown. More great political teamwork, eh?

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