Spanish & Portuguese in the United States

The Sirocco winds begin in the Sahara Desert and can be understood as a metaphor for movement across nations, cultures, and regions. They carry African sands, seeds, dust, and sediment as they regain force in their transit across the Mediterranean. Trade ships were also carried by these winds. Ideas and memory are carried by these winds. Even architectural forms have been designed around the Sirocco, from Sicily as far east as Iran.

These winds also serve as a metaphor for the movement of languages through migration and exchange.

Though reports vary, the United States has either the second or third largest Spanish-speaking population on the planet. If the Spanish-speaking population continues to increase (roughly a 13% increase in 2015), then the United States could be the largest Spanish-speaking country on Earth. The United States does not have an “official language” in its constituton, much to the dismay of those in favor of erecting walls and supporting “English-only” language policies.

In numerous Massachusetts and Rhode Island communities, Portuguese (Continental and Brazilian) and Portuguese-based Cape Verdean Criollo are the second and third most widely-spoken languages, ahead of Spanish. Check out this interactive map based on U.S. Census reports from 2011.

This language diversity, despite what could become an increasingly hostile culture for immigrants with a new president-elect, is something that must be celebrated. It is an enormous opportunity, particularly for the younger generations who come from monolingual English-speaking homes, to hear and live with and capture the joy of the sound of languages like Spanish and Portuguese. It is an unparalleled moment of language contact, from the big cities of the U.S. to even the smaller towns.

For this reason (and of course to share stories in written form that will inspire) one of the SiroccoBlue projects is to develop a trilingual series of short stories that explores language use and the joy of the sounds of Portuguese and Spanish for children. It will include other languages too: the language of dreams and memories, of music, and even animal companions who speak across Cambridgeport streets.

While the winds serve as a metaphor for the movement of language through migration, the Sirocco can also be seen as a symbol for exchange. Global education and exchange initiatives have always been at the core of the SiroccoBlue services. And soon, with the e-book project “Study Abroad: A Guide for Program Developers,” an all new website will be launched specifically for international education program development. More to come on that work soon!

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Announcement – eBook coming!

In early 2017, I’ll be releasing a practical eBook on how to build study abroad programs and how to turn around study abroad program performance in 90-days.

Based on years of developing and directing programs in Brazil, Cuba, and Spain, the content is designed to help universities and third-party providers build and manage solid, high-impact study abroad centers. Two courses and consultancy services are connected to this project!

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Testimonial | Study Abroad Leadership & Development

In early 2012, just after completing a Fulbright research grant in Brazil, I was hired by CIEE to assess the study abroad programs in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, identify which parts of the operation could be salvaged, and take apart and rebuild the programs. Catharine Scruggs, long-standing Executive Director of all CIEE programs and an important figure in all of CIEE’s expansion and development initiatives, recently shared some reflections on my work as Resident Director (2012-2015), the same type of services I am now offering as a freelance consultant:

“I first met Jacob Dyer Spiegel in early 2012 when I interviewed him for a Resident Director position for the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) programs in Salvador, Brazil. During his tenure as RD, Jacob impressed me because of his ability to assess program strengths and weaknesses, work with senior management to effectively re-create an international study center, build partnerships, and transform the curriculum around student-centered learning models. Continue reading “Testimonial | Study Abroad Leadership & Development”

Testimonial | Sirocco International Education Work

More testimonials on SiroccoBlue services are coming in on the LinkedIn page!

This one is from Dr. José Menezes, Dean of Graduate Studies at the Catholic University of Salvador (Universidade Católica do Salvador, UCSal), where I developed and managed the Brazilian-Portuguese language & culture program for students from roughly 300 U.S. universities heading to Brazil to develop language and intercultural skills: Continue reading “Testimonial | Sirocco International Education Work”

Celebrating Brazilian Scholars in the U.S. | BRASCON Conference at Harvard

On July 25th 2011, President Dilma Rousseff’s announcement echoed through the world and was translated into one hundred languages by the break of dawn: Brazil would soon begin sending 101,000 students overseas to study science, technology, and engineering, among other fields. It was called Ciência sem Fronteiras or ‘Science Without Borders’—a bold way of developing the nation’s most talented students, across all borders. Overnight, new ETS sites (the test centers where English proficiency exams are offered) had to be built and, to accommodate the demand, testing services had to be offered even in neighboring Argentina. GOL and TAM reservation systems shut down. Car rentals so Brazilian nationals could take the exam in neighboring countries tripled. This would be one of the largest education development and mobility projects in the history of our planet.

12710819_621128764707381_7365052457585187353_oFive years later, BRASCON—a network of Brazilian graduate students carrying out their degree and research programs primarily in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—has organized a wonderful event to celebrate the stories and achievements of some of Brazil’s most talented scholars doing their graduate studies here in the United States. Meet the organizers and several of the participants:

The conference will also feature guest speakers based out of Brazil and the U.S. and will be held at Harvard University on March 12th and 13th (Saturday & Sunday). Registration is required and available online.

The Sirocco Blue team is looking forward to this event especially having worked so closely with the Ciência sem Fronteiras program and the incredible scholars here in the United States!

The “TSP”: Cuba Travel Service Provider

In previous posts on Cuba (see our Study Abroad Consulting category), we described People-to-People travel to Cuba through Cuban Tour Operators. In the lexical labyrinth, at least based on what we have seen, these Cuban-based operations are the entities that provide the Cuban license, making your educational travel legal on the island. Your U.S.-based study abroad company or university can bring a group to Cuba under the new OFAC general license (you are therefore ‘licensed’ according to OFAC and the U.S. government), but that does not mean anything in Cuba. To operate legally in Cuba at the People-to-People level, you must also be received and licensed through a Cuba-licensed operator.

The “TSP” (Cuba, and not Cuban, Travel Service Provider) is usually a non-Cuban operation that acts as a travel agent. In the U.S., these Travel Service Providers have a special OFAC license in order to serve as travel agents. These outside-of-Cuba Travel Service Providers link the group with the Cuban Travel Operators like Havanatur.

Many Cuban Tour Operators like Havanatur have the equivalent of “Cuba Travel Service Providers” outside of the the US, too, and these providers–especially if outside the US in Canada, Europe–may not have an OFAC license. And why would they, if they are not U.S.-based? This seems obvious but can be an obstacle for a U.S.-based study abroad company or U.S.-based university.

In addition, what we have seen is that — and this is no way a question of legitimacy — is that the foreign (outside of Cuba) affiliates, even the ones based in the U.S. that have a Cuba Travel Service Provider license to operate as a travel agent for Cuba in the U.S., are not always able to answer license-specific questions in Cuba. In other words, just because a U.S. entity can act as a travel agent for Cuba and is authorized by OFAC to do so, there are licensing requirements on the Cuban end that said travel agency may not be able to answer. The result is a fascinating back and forth between the Cuban licensed entity (the Cuban Tour Operator) and the non-Cuban entity (TSP or travel agent, often outside of the U.S.) that sends them clients. There are now dozens (perhaps more) non-Cuban operations affiliating with Cuban Tour Operators making for some fascinating translations. At the level of programming, out initial observation is that the Cuban Tour Operators vary in flexibility: some need to stick to a rigid itinerary because their license in Cuba was approved as such, others can incorporate constructivist and student-centered learning models with more ease.

Regardless, the administration and implementation of these People-to-People programs behind the scenes is a fascinating point of contact between cultures and educational value systems, and it is in these spaces that, if folks step back from the immediate payment mentality, real intercultural learning takes place. This is a fascinating moment for exchange surrounding full-immersion, educational travel on both ends, foreign and Cuban.



Program Development in Cuba

In a previous post, we outlined the updates to the OFAC general license which make it easier–though with hurdles, of course–to set up study abroad programs for U.S.-based students in Cuba. Because our consulting work involves educational programming, those are the parts of the general license (or “blanket license”) that we focussed on and will continue to focus on.

What is termed “People-to-People” education programing is, in many ways, the “easiest” route for U.S.-based organizations that do not have a license through OFAC to operate programs in Cuba (getting that license is not the easiest process, though we will cover it in future posts).

Essentially, the U.S.-based group travels to Cuba under the new general license and links up with the Cuban Tour Operator (a licensed tour operator, important note!) that is based in Cuba. Of course, the itinerary will have already been worked out and disseminated to the group of U.S.-based students who must be accompanied by a representative of the U.S. institution. The legality of the study period in Cuba is built around the Cuban Tour Operator’s license. The itinerary, then, is set in stone and, for that reason, some of the more alternative U.S.-based organizations might feel limited at times. But fear not: the Cuban Tour Operators are fantastic and we have worked with them closely in the past. (In a separate post, expect some “stories from the field” based on a 2012 Faculty Development Seminar).

That said, there are intermediaries between the would-be U.S.-based group (which is termed “sponsor”) and the Cuban Tour Operators. They have multiple names and are based all over the world. It is a fascinating system that resembles Cuban line formation and transportation-induced lexicon (“Último, detrás de quién vá, última persona para la veinte, dale caballeros levantén la mano po favo’, and so on and so on, until everyone seeks out shade in twenty different locations, all to miraculously–or not–join in perfect order when the bus arrives). Another one of our wind-like tangents… digressions… Whatever we should call them…

When you need technical questions answered, though, these satellite intermediaries need to go to the source: the licensed Cuban Tour Operator that they have partnership with. That is an important detail, especially as questions of “sponsorship” identity get confusing in the age of custom and faculty-led programming.

Indeed, when large U.S.-based study abroad providers organize educational travel packages to U.S.-based groups, who exactly is the “sponsor”? The group that will travel (a small prep school in Cambridge, Mass. for example), or the study abroad company? And then, in a age of authenticity, what exactly is the study abroad company doing if some of the Cuban Tour Operators must maintain somewhat fixed itineraries as per Cuban laws and policies? If the Cuban Tour Operator essentially creates and implements the educational trip for the “sponsor” (the U.S. group school), then what does the U.S. company do? Are they a sponsor? Do they become a sponsor by simply sending a representative of the company?

Obviously, we have many questions as our team has put together over 30 custom and faculty-led programs in Brazil for many U.S. universities through U.S.-based study abroad  companies. One thing that would make sense to us, more observers in a post-1/26/16 general license moment, is to to answer ‘yes’ to many questions:

Yes, embedding student-centered approaches to even fixed Cuban Tour Operator itineraries is possible; Yes, having a role in shaping the itinerary with the Cuban Tour Operators is possible with strong relations and a track-record of success with those companies (and not always the satellite partners); Yes, there can be a productive dual-sponsorship between U.S.-based entities, a sending institution (“the sponsor”) and the organization that gives the program shape. We will continue to research and post on this topic while assembling this method of program development in partnership with all of the interested parties.

Study Abroad in Cuba

Despite normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, there are still challenges in setting up study abroad programs for U.S.-based students on the island.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury states the following (1/26/16):

“OFAC has issued general licenses within the 12 categories of authorized travel for many travel- related transactions to, from, or within Cuba that previously required a specific license (i.e., an application and a case-by-case determination).”

In other words, a general (or ‘blanket’) license now covers educational travel (one of the twelve categories). The study abroad provider does not need to apply for a separate license. For those study abroad providers attempting to cut corners and have students go on tourist visas: bad idea. Travel to Cuba purely for tourist activities, as of 1/26/16, is not allowed:

“Consistent with the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA), travel-related transactions involving Cuba are only permitted for the 12 categories of activities identified in the CACR. Travel-related transactions for other purposes remain prohibited.”

For that reason, study abroad providers should use the general license as educational activities do fall within the 12 categories.

So what are educational activities? Study abroad is one.

The new and improved general license makes things easier:

“[The] general license authorizes, subject to conditions, faculty, staff, and students at U.S. academic institutions and secondary schools to engage in certain educational activities in Cuba, Cuban scholars to engage in certain educational activities in the United States, and certain activities to facilitate licensed educational programs.”

This applies to study abroad for secondary schools and secondary school students, as well:

“Educational exchanges sponsored by Cuban or U.S. secondary schools involving secondary school students’ participation in a formal course of study or in a structured educational program offered by a secondary school or other academic institution, and led by a teacher or other secondary school official, are authorized under this general license.”

Study abroad and “People-to-People Travel” under the general license (what we are calling a blanket license) requires some translation:

“[The] general license authorizes, subject to conditions, persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to engage in certain educational exchanges in Cuba under the auspices of an organization that is a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction and sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact.”

The ‘an organization that is a person’ is slightly awkward. It seems that ‘an organization that is a person’ means that the organization must have a representative present:

“[…] an employee, paid consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization must accompany each group traveling to Cuba to ensure the full-time schedule of educational exchange activities.”

The “organization” in a People-to-People context is defined as follows: “an entity subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors educational exchanges that do not involve academic study pursuant to a degree program and that promote people-to-people contact.”

In our next post, we will explore what U.S. organizations facilitating people-to-people travel need to do in terms of working with a Cuban tour operator.

In terms of flights from the U.S. to Cuba: “Yes, provided that you are authorized to travel to Cuba pursuant to a general or specific license. Airlines subject to U.S. jurisdiction are authorized to provide air carrier services to authorized travelers.” Can you travel to Cuba from a third country (not the U.S.): “Yes, a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction engaging in authorized travel-related transactions may travel to Cuba from a third country or to a third country from Cuba. Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction traveling to and from Cuba via a third country may only do so if their travel-related transactions are authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, and are subject to the same restrictions and requirements as persons traveling directly from the United States.”

Study abroad programs are allowed to set up an office in Cuba:

“Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction in the following categories are authorized to establish and maintain a physical presence, such as an office, warehouse, or retail outlet, in Cuba to engage in transactions authorized by or exempt from the CACR: news bureaus; exporters of certain goods authorized for export or reexport pursuant to 31 CFR §§ 515.533 and 515.559; entities providing mail or parcel transmission services; providers of telecommunications or internet-based services; entities organizing or conducting certain educational activities; religious organizations; and providers of carrier and certain travel services.”

The relations are opening many new ways to travel to Cuba legally! We will continue to document these opportunities!