Oxford has strong and varied connections with Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. The study of these countries is mostly concentrated in the Latin American Centre (LAC) which has resident specialists in the history, sociology and political economy of the region. The LAC, part of the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, has a vibrant programme in Mexican Studies which was opened by President Vicente Fox in 2002. Fortunate to have world renowned experts in contemporary Mexican history, politics, economics and society, the Latin American Centre has featured Mexico in classes, dissertations and theses, in academic events, and in a specialised library collection on Latin America. The Centre’s work on Mexico is further enhanced by collaboration with the North American Programme bolstering teaching, supervision, and event planning on Mexican themes.
Oxford has strong and varied connections with Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
Mexico and Central America
Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine and the Medical School of the Technológico de Monterrey have signed a memorandum of understanding for researcher exchange and collaborative studies of infectious disease pathogenesis and vaccine development, with the aim of setting up a collaborative research centre in Mexico. The University has established agreements to collaborate not only with the TEC, but also Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla and the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, in order to establish a network between laboratories in Mexico and the UK.
The Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities run by the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) conducted a study in Yucatán as one of the field work sites for a project exploring notions of ‘urban flexibility’ in cities undergoing reconstruction after major disasters. Cancún managed to expand its population from 100,000 to 700,000 between 1970 and 2009 in the fact of recurrent and sometimes devastating natural disasters, particularly tropical cyclones, making it an ideal site for the study. Publications from the ‘urban flexibility’ project are available from the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society. in Mexico as one of the field work sites for a project exploring notions of ‘urban flexibility’
Since the late 1990s, the University of Oxford Clinical Trial Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit (Professor Rory Collins, Professor Richard Peto and Associate Professor Jonathan Emberson) has been working with researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Professor Pablo Kuri-Morales, Professor Roberto Tapia-Conyer, Professor Malaquias Lopez-Cervantes and Dr Jesus Alegre- Diaz) on a blood-based cohort study of 150,000 adults living in Mexico City. By relating baseline physical and lifestyle characteristics and blood biomarkers to the subsequent health records of these participants they are helping to determine the major causes of premature morbidity and mortality in Mexico. In particular, they are currently studying the effects of adiposity and diabetes – which are very common in Mexico – on deaths from heart and kidney disease. In the future, the researchers will also be relating genes to participants’ records.
Oxford Institute of Ageing has established and developed a successful research network on ageing in Latin America, the Latin American Network on Ageing (LARNA). The network comprises distinguished academics in the field of ageing from across Latin America working together and with fellow academics from the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing. The network is co-directed by the Department of Governance and Development at University of Guanajuato-Leon, Mexico. Annual network conferences have been held in the region since 2010 and the network's first training and capacity building workshop was held at the University of Guanajuato-Leon in March 2015.
Like other emerging economies, Mexico is realising the importance of science and technology for improved competitiveness and sustained economic growth, and is currently taking major steps on the road to becoming a knowledge based economy. Isis Enterprise, the technology commercialisation and innovation management consulting arm of Isis Innovation (the technology transfer firm of the University of Oxford) has helped the Mexican Council of Science and Technology define clear strategies to promote and increase funding programmes related to scientific and technological development and innovation. With the help of Isis, the network of technology transfer offices in Mexico has grown to include 135 Technology Transfer offices (TTOs). Isis has trained the leadership teams at many of the TTOs and has provided detailed guidance on the commercialisation process and strategy. Leveraging the Oxford model of technology transfer, Isis’ contribution has been widely accepted by the Mexican technology transfer stakeholders. As an outcome, Isis Innovation staff Mireya McKee and Elena Andonova in 2014 participated in the Third Congress of the Network of TTOs of Mexico, contributing valuable know-how from Oxford and beyond. Isis is also a partnering institution to the UK’s Newton Fund initiative and as such is engaged in screening promising science and technology based projects from Mexico. Isis expects to continue working with Mexican institutions to accelerate their rate of innovation, establishing long term partnerships and developing a stronger presence in Mexico and Latin America.
Across the university, the Caribbean is also a rich focus of research for many academics.
An Oxford Martin Institute of Nanoscience for Medicine scholar, Dr Sonia Trigueros, has been working in collaboration with Cuban scientists to advance nanotechnology in medicine. Dr Trigueros has been repeatedly hosted by the National Center for Scientific Research (CNIC) to spend several weeks in Cuba giving lectures, seminars and workshops in all aspects of nano-science, aimed at scientists, particularly from Havana University, of many disciplines including chemistry, medicine, physics and biology. Dr Triqueros’ work aims to raise awareness in the Cuba scientific community of the ground-breaking advances being made in this dynamic field and to share knowledge and skills with a new generation of researchers.
Department of Plant Sciences botanists have been undertaking a biodiversity monitoring project in collaboration with the University of the West Indies, the Trinidad and Tobago Forestry Division and the Asa Wright Nature Centre. The project is greatly expanding the specimens of the National Herbarium of Trinidad and Tobago (TRIN) and cataloguing all of the specimens in an online searchable botanical database for public access. In addition, over 15,000 valuable pre-1900 herbarium collections from the Caribbean (including Trinidad & Tobago) held by Oxford University, not previously accessible from Trinidad and Tobago, are being catalogued on the system.
In the School of Geography, Emeritus Professor of Geography Professor Colin Clarke is researching the slave trade in the Caribbean. Professor Clarke is Chairman of the Society for Caribbean Studies, President of the European Association for Research on Central America, and Chairman of the Society for Latin American Studies. In 2004 he was awarded the degree of DLitt by Oxford University in recognition of his research and publications on Mexico and the Caribbean.
Libraries and Museums
The University’s libraries and museums house extensive collections from across the region.
The Vere Harmsworth Library housed in the Rothermere American Institute hosts the finest collection of Americana to be found outside the USA. The Bodleian Latin American Centre Library is the University's primary source for those studying Latin American politics, economics, social sciences and history. It houses some 12,000 volumes, together with journals, pamphlets and microfilms.
The Bodleian library holds an incredibly rare item – the Codex Mendoza – which is a 16th century account of the life of Aztecs in Mexico with pictographs by an Aztec artist and annotated in Spanish.
The Bodleian Libraries’ Conservation and Collection Care team were recently awarded a grant from the Cultural Heritage Advanced Research Infrastructures, Synergy for a Multidisciplinary Approach to Conservation/Restoration (CHARISMA).
The grant enabled the Bodleian to use a mobile laboratory for instrumental analysis (MOLAB) to characterise the colours present in the Libraries’ five pre-Hispanic and early colonial Mexican pictorial manuscripts: Codex Mendoza, Codex Laud, Codex Bodley,Codex Selden, and the Selden Roll. Due to the fragility of the codices, very little work had been done in the past to assess their materials and composition. The outcomes so far include learning more about the pictorial techniques and materials used in these five manuscripts; answering key questions concerning both the history and the making of these codices; and minimising the unnecessary handling and piecemeal analysis of these unique items.
Oxford University Press México y Centroamérica is OUP’s office in the region where it has dedicated law, primary and secondary school and English language divisions.
There are four alumni groups in Central American and the Caribbean: OUS Mexico, OUS Trinidad and Tobago, Oxford and Cambridge Society of the West Indies, and OUS Central America in Costa Rica.
Notable Oxford alumni from the Caribbean include a number of statesmen:
- Norman Washington Manley, chief minister of Jamaica (1955-62)
- J M G (Tom) Adams, Prime Minister of Barbados (1976-85)
- Sir Grantley Adams, Premier of Barbados (1954-1958) and Prime Minister of the West Indies (1958-1962)
- Hon Raymond Robinson, President of Trinidad and Tobago (1997-2003)
- Dr Eric Williams, Chief Minister (1956-1959), Premier (1959-1962), and Prime Minister (1962-1981) of Trinidad and Tobago.
In 2004, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies and former student of Oriel college, Professor the Hon. Rex Nettleford, was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law Degree from the University.
In Central America, alumni include:
- Fernando Sánchez Campos, Deputy to the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica
- Rubén Berríos, President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party