2014 Michael Baptista Essay Prizes Awarded

The Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean at York University (CERLAC) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Michael Baptista Essay Prize for outstanding scholarly papers on topics of relevance to the area of Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

At the undergraduate level, Jorge Villatoro (LA&PS) won for his paper: "The Emergence of the Regional Cult of El Señor de Esquipulas".  As one adjudicator commented: “This paper offers a very thorough and insightful analysis of the emergence of the cult of El Señor de Esquipulas in the town of Esquipulas (Guatemala). This is a superb research paper with a 1) well-defined topic, 2) precise and cohesive sections, and 3) an elegant organization. There is ample evidence throughout the paper that this student is well on his way of becoming an independent scholar. Indeed, working with ample sources the author goes on to challenge existing explanations of the origin of the cult and to postulate his own interpretation with a clear and theoretically informed rhetorical voice. Moreover, using an interdisciplinary and comparative approach, the author situates himself within current debates about the significance of religious pilgrimage and the rise of Esquipulas as a pilgrimage center. In sum, this paper is a prime example of undergraduate research at its best.”

At the graduate level, the prize was shared between two honorees: Nadia Halum Arauz (Osgoode) for her paper "Atahualpa’s Legacy: Analyzing the Impact of Gold Mining on Peru’s Campesino Community" and Jenna Meguid (Osgoode) for her paper "Colombia’s Peace Talks". About Ms. Halum Arauz’s paper, one adjudicator observed: “This essay is not only very carefully and analytically argued, but it is also based on primary as well as secondary sources. That is, it is particularly well researched. The essay is also original since Ms. Harum Arauz uses the data/evidence that she has gathered to develop proposals for potential legal action that the community under consideration might take in order to defend its interests. In addition this work is very well and clearly written. It develops its arguments with great care and precision. In sum, the paper manifests exceptional research, exceptionally cogent and analytically developed arguments, originality, and an elegant well-organized presentation.” About Ms. Meguid’s essay, an adjudicator expressed the following: “Jenna's paper provides a careful analysis of the current peace negotiations in Colombia. Working with relatively little material on this process, the paper develops a number of important insights into the ongoing challenges and possible outcomes of the peace talks between the FARC and the Government of Colombia.” Another adjudicator remarked: “Ms. Meguid’s work … is very carefully and well argued, analytically cogent, and well-written. I am very impressed … by the critical intelligence with which it systematically dissects a very difficult set of issues.”

The essays were nominated by York faculty members and evaluated by two committees of CERLAC Fellows (a separate committee for each level of prize).  All three of these prize-winning papers will be available online as part of CERLAC's Baptista Prize-Winning Essays Series.

All of the nominated papers represent high-calibre scholarly work at their authors' respective levels of study, and merit recognition as worthy of candidacy for this prize. The other undergraduate papers nominated for the 2014 prize were: Collette Murray’s "Global Migration and Diaspora Cultures” ; Maia Foster’s "The Fight for the Forest” ; The other graduate-level nominees were: Julian Gutierrez Castano’s "The Racialization of Forced Displacement in Colombia”; Abigail Henry’s: "Codeswitching in the Church: The Cultural Significance of the Jamaican New Testament”; Kevin Chrisman’s: "Visualizing Los Pobres in Mexico City: Space, Gender and National Identity in Feature Films, 1948-1979”; and Vanesa Tomasino Rodriguez’s:  "Subjectivity and Space: Orchestrating and uncontested perception of Pandilleros in El Salvador”.

The Michael Baptista Essay Prize was established by the friends of Michael Baptista and the Royal Bank of Canada. This $500 Prize is awarded annually to both a graduate and an undergraduate student at York University in recognition of an outstanding scholarly essay of relevance to the area of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, from the humanities, social science, business or legal perspective. The Michael Baptista Essay Prize and Lecture are named in honour of Michael Baptista in recognition of the areas central to his spirit and success: the importance of his Guyanese / Caribbean roots, his dedication to and outstanding achievement at the Royal Bank of Canada, and his continued and unqualified drive and love of learning.


If you are a York faculty member and wish to nominate a student's essay for this prize, please contact CERLAC: cerlac@yorku.ca

Congratulations to all this year's nominees, and especially to the prize winners!