RWU Magazine - Fall 2013 / Issue #9 - page 19

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focuses on measuring
the human
“Often what leads to revolution is that
people have been pushed to the brink of
hopelessness, and they come to a breaking
point,” says Quezada-Grant, an assistant
professor of history who studies indigenous
and popular resistance movements of pre- and
post-revolutionary periods across Latin
America, through the lens of social justice and
human rights. More recently, her work has
brought her to the Middle East and North
Africa, where she has found surprising
parallels between Latin American conflicts
and those revolutionary uprisings in Tunisia
and Egypt during the Arab Spring.
The connection, she says, is in the
demands of the people who call those
countries home. While Westerners perceive
the revolutions across the globe as a
galvanized demand for democratic
government, Quezada-Grant surmises that the
true motivation is a lack of basic human rights.
“When you compare revolutions in Latin
America, and the revolution right now in Egypt,
they are calling for the same thing
justice, bread, jobs, dignity – which is not
exactly the same thing as democracy,” she said
following a brief stay in Egypt during the June
30 uprising that ousted Mohamed Morsi from
the presidency. She intended to lead a seminar
on the similarities between the Latin
American and North African revolutions at
the Development Support Center and MENA
Network for Social, Political and Economic
Rights workshop on social justice and
democracy. The protests caused the
conference to be cancelled, and Quezada-
Grant instead gained an on-the-ground
education of the public health crisis in
Cairo’s slums.
“Public health is a human right,” she
explains. “Access to clean water, adequate
food – people want those basic needs met.”
An advisor for the interdisciplinary public
health minor at Roger Williams and faculty
co-sponsor of the University’s FIMRC
(Foundation for International Medical Relief
of Children) chapter, Quezada-Grant has a
keen awareness of the challenges marginalized
populations face when it comes to basic health
care and education. An encounter with a
colleague in Cairo, Ahmed El Metwally,
revealed the roots of poor public health care
systems in developing nations in the midst of
revolution and political revolt. The core
problem, he told her, is poverty.
“These people are not sick because they
don’t want to take care of themselves, they’re
sick because they’re poor,” Quezada-Grant
says. “In Nicaragua or El Salvador or Cairo,
that’s the same. When you look at the chronic
problems faced by marginalized people living
on the fringes of poor communities, the
common denominator is poverty.”
Now back in Bristol, Quezada-Grant
awaits word that the workshop will be
resumed. Until then, she continues to reflect
on the emerging voices she witnessed up close
in Cairo:
“It’s really a civil war in Egypt right now, a
very precarious situation,” she says. “There’s a
deep sense of hopelessness, and I just don’t
know where that will lead.”
What she does know is that as the
revolutions continue, the world has
progressed far past an Arab Spring. A full
Global Spring, as she terms it, is at hand.
Lesley Riva
Revolutionary Road – From Cairo to Central America,
a Focus on Health and Social Justice
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