Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean region | University of Oxford
Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean region
Students strolling in the gardens of New College, Oxford.
(Image credit: Oxford University Images / John Cairns Photography).

Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean region

Oxford has strong and varied connections with Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

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.

Studying

The study of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean 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, is fortunate to have world renowned experts in contemporary Mexican history, politics, economics and society, and 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.

Research

The Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities run by the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) is studying Cancún in Mexico 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 to 700,000 between 1970 and 2009 in the face of recurrent and sometimes devastating natural disasters, particularly tropical cyclones, making it an ideal site for the study.

Researchers at the Oxford Long-Term Ecology Laboratory at the Department of Zoology are undertaking a long-term study of the forest dynamics in the Sierra de Manantlan Biosphere Reserve, Mexico. They aim to investigate whether the present composition and structure of the forest is a result of its intensive use by indigenous human populations in the past, or whether it is due to natural processes. The researchers are studying the history of the forest dynamics through using tree rings and fossil pollen among other techniques. Their findings will help to inform debates about conservation efforts in the region.

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 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.

Medical Sciences

The Nuffield Department of Medicine has a growing spread of research relying on collaborations in Mexico and Latin America, and on direct access to infrastructure or patient cohorts in Mexico itself. In addition, there are a growing number of scientists and research institutes based in Mexico who are seeking collaborations abroad. In response to these needs, NDM is hosting an initiative to support the creation of research infrastructure and research capacity in Mexico, and is continuing to build on direct collaborative research projects with Mexican scientists and students to foster vaccine-development and genomics research capacity – topics that also have applications in immunology, inflammation, infections, chronic diseases and cancers.

NDM has signed an array of MoUs with several Mexican research universities and national health institutes, aimed at strengthening relationships and collaborative work by: facilitating exchanges of academic staff and postgraduate students; hosting each other’s academic staff and students as visitors; and exploring opportunities for collaborating on funded research programmes. They are also creating scholarships supporting Mexican students to undertake summer internships to gain a deeper understanding of their chosen fields of study and to be exposed to different cultures and environments; and Doctoral studies and NDM Prize Studentships for candidates demonstrating exceptional academic merit and/or potential commencing a full-time DPhil course of study in any subject at the University of Oxford’s Medical Sciences Division and intending to return to Mexico on completion of their studies.

As of May 2016, NDM has signed MoUs with: Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP)Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social, Centro Médico Nacional Siglo XXI (IMSS)Instituto Politécnico Nacional, IPN; Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, ITESM Campus Cd de México; Universidad Michoacana San Nicolás de Hidalgo (UMSNH); and Universidad Veracruzana. A MoU has not yet been signed with Laboratorio Estatal de Salud Pública de Michoacán (LESP), but the LESP plays a pivotal role within the consortium, and is an active collaborative partner, providing significant expertise, resources, guidance and leadership.  Researchers from the Faculty of Medicine and the Institute of Biotechnology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico are also a significant part of the collaboration, and NDM are preparing the signing of a MoU with this highly prestigious Mexican University.

Since the late 1990s, the University of Oxford Clinical Trial Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit has been working with researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico 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.

Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences

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.

Social Sciences

Oxford's Latin American Centre is working with FLACSO-Mexico on a database of post-authoritarian disappearances to determine patterns of impunity. The project involves six states in which the research team are working with NGOs and victim groups to systematise information on the disappeared: the characteristics of the disappeared person or persons, the details of the event including information on perpetrators, and the outcome in terms of official response (e.g. reporting, investigation, justice).

Laurence Whitehead of the Latin American Centre is co-authoring a white paper on The Future of Oil in Mexico in collaboration with James A. Baker III from the Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas (Baker Institute) as part of an energy forum which includes scholars from Mexican universities and think tanks. The forum will look at The Politics of Resource Nationalism, Economic and Oil Revenue Distribution Issues for Mexico, The Mexican Oil Industry and Oil in the U.S.-Mexico Relationship before culminating in the white paper co-authored by Whitehead.

Interdisciplinary

The Oxford Institute of Population 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.

Students

There are over 100 students from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean studying at Oxford. The majority are from Mexico, with Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica being the next highest sources. Almost all are postgraduate students, and there is a fairly even split between taught and research students. Nearly half are in the Social Sciences, with Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences being the second most popular division. 

Scholarships

Mexican students are eligible for several scholarships including CONACyT scholarships, FUNED scholarships, and Magdalena O Vda de Brockmann Scholarships. The Mexican Embassy publishes information on scholarships open to Mexican students, including funding offered by the Mexican Academy of Sciences and the Fund for Human Resources Development (Bank of Mexico).

Societies

Societies related to the region include the Oxford African and Caribbean Society, the Oxford Mexican Society and the Oxford University Latin American Society.

Academics

There are 32 academics from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean working at Oxford. Three quarters are from Mexico, with the rest from Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica, Barbados, Saint Lucia and Cuba.

Rafael Perera (Mexico)

Rafael Perera is Director of Medical Statistics group in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, Director of Research Methodologies in the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM) and a fellow at St Hugh’s College Oxford. His primary research program focuses on monitoring in primary care, meta-analysis methods, methodology for studying infectious diseases in children, and assessing complex interventions. He has overseen the development of one of the strongest methodological/statistical groups in the UK (across all clinical areas) with a particular emphasis on Monitoring, and his group has achieved national and international recognition. He is also a Statistical Editor of the BMJ (since 2011) and was a member of the NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Commissioning board until 2012, joining in 2007 as Associate Member becoming a full Board Member in 2009.

Professor Alfonso Castrejon-Pita (Mexico)

Alfonso Castrejon-Pita is Associate Professor (Fluid Mechanics) in the Department of Engineering Science, Royal Society University Research Fellow, and Tutorial Fellow at Wadham College. He obtained his D.Phil. in Physics at the University of Oxford, funded by a prestigious Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate award. His research was centred on experimental and theoretical studies of synchronization phenomena in fluid dynamics in the context of geophysical flows. This was followed by a postdoctoral position in the same laboratory funded by NERC (Natural Environment Research Council, UK) on the experimental demonstration of chaos synchronization in mutually coupled fluid flows, with greater implications to atmospheric dynamics such as weather forecast. From April 2011 to September 2013 he was a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, and a Researcher at St. John’s College, where he redirected his research towards a better understanding of the dynamics of small-scale free surface flows. He was awarded a Royal Society University Research Fellowship in October 2013 which he holds at the University of Oxford, where he is also an Associate Professor (Fluid Mechanics) and a Tutorial Fellow of Wadham College. In Oxford, he established the Fluid Dynamics Laboratory for the study of drops and liquid jets. In addition to his research activities he covers several undergraduate (tutorials) courses at Wadham including mathematics, fluid mechanics, and thermodynamics. He also supervises and advises undergraduate, MEng, MSc(R) and DPhil students in the Department and in College.

Alumni

Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean are home to over 650 Oxford alumni. Over half are in Mexico, with Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago having the next highest concentration. There are four alumni groups in Central America 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 statespeople:

  • Sir Grantley Adams, Premier of Barbados (1954-1958) and Prime Minister of the West Indies (1958-1962)
  • J.M.G. (Tom) Adams, Prime Minister of Barbados (1976-85)
  • Norman Washington Manley, chief minister of Jamaica (1955-62)
  • 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:

  • Rubén Berríos, President of the Puerto Rican Independence Party
  • Fernando Sánchez Campos, Deputy to the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica
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