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May 11, 2002

 

We awakened early because we had to check out of the hotel, drive through the traffic, and then set up the camera before the final round began. We were, as so often happens, a few minutes late checking out and leaving, and we did get hung up in traffic, but Carlos knew the way and we got there in plenty of time to set up the cameras.

 

Breakfast was just finishing as I completed my camera set up. I chatted with the two teams, specifically admiring the "armas" that Jesus and the others from Compostela were wearing. Bright stripes of fabric were draped over their lapels, and each had a different seal on it. Their  very intelligent and clever coach, Carlos Navia, also had his "armas"on. The seals indicated their affiliations within the university. They told me they were used in very formal events, and they had thus interpreted the final round. I wished Cristian and Gonzalo best of luck, something I can say in Spanish.

 

The judging panel was composed of most important citizens. One was the head of the bar association in Puerto Rico, another was the official historian of Puerto Rico, and the final was a woman I was told is famous in many fields law, business, nonprofit organizations, etc. A most interesting panel of judges, especially for a topic like this.

 

There seemed to be five or six different cameras on the stage at the same time. They appreciated using my extremely long orange power cord so we could all hook up.


| CAMERA CREWS | JUDGES | GOVERNMENT TEAM | OPPOSITION TEAM |


| ANTONIO REYES | GONZALO DOWNEY |

 

During the debate I made my way back stage to see how the streaming broadcast was going. They were using Windows media Player and a PC to stream it. It looked very similar to the system I use with just about the same windows and menus. I spoke briefly to the technician but he was clearly enthralled by Antonio Reyes of Spain who was speaking then, and said more than once, "This guy is great." I left him to his reverie.

 

All four debaters are excellent speakers and very logical thinkers. They had obviously done a great deal of thinking the night before. Although my Spanish is fairly weak, I was able (with some help from Anthony and Carlos) to discern the major arguments in the debate. The government strategy was to highlight the one-way flow of benefits to the overdeveloped nations and the catastrophic costs to the world's poorest. The opposition strategy was to point out that third world nations should also hold themselves responsible for their current plight, and that enacting a role of victim was counterproductive. Central de Chile also argued that the relationship between the two was improving, and cited the work of the Latin American economist Cardozo, who had established "dependency theory"as the model for north south relations, but then changed his mind some years later to claim that prosperity and higher standards of living are possible for emerging economies.

 

You can watch this debate at Debate Central (http://debate.uvm.edu/ ).

 

After the debate the judges poured over their ballots, the contestants and their coaches gathered for photos and an exchange of gifts, and the crowd felt very good about the excellent debate they had just seen. They immediately began rebuilding the stage for the presentation of awards. The judges finished up just moments before the transition was completed, and the awards presentation began.

 

The awards featured thanks to so many who had contributed so much to the hosting and administration of the event, but I thought it did not sufficiently recognize the tremendous contribution that Maria Rosso had made. She had spearheaded the bid, the planning, and the implementation. She is one of those people who in a very determined way gets things done. I had admired her determination and hard work all during the year. Two other people stood out for me as major players who had contributed so much. Charles Zeno of the law school had led numerous meetings and resolved several disputes. His input on topics and format was also very useful. Walter Murray, professor of philosophy, had also been one of those who was there to do whatever needed to be done -- from lecturing about argument to running through the rain to find missing judges. I was so glad that in this experience I had been able to make these three new friends.


| SOME OF THE TEAMS ON STAGE | GONZALO DOWNEY, TOP SPEAKER |

 

The awards presentation also presented diplomas to all of the participants and their coaches. Gonzalo Downey of Universidad Central de Chile was named the top individual speaker. In the final round, the decision went to the opposition, Central de Chile.

 

A delightful lunch was served and featured lasagna, as I remember. The feelings were high and people were talkative but then began to feel just a little sad. It was clear that our time together was coming to an end. I took this last chance for now to talk to people I might not see for a while, and we also made some future plans and vows of cooperation.

 

The crowd started to thin and I hate good-byes, so we made ready to leave. Maria asked me if we could meet for dinner, and I said I would be pleased to do that. She said she and her husband would meet me at my hotel in Old San Juan. We piled into Carlos'vehicle and headed back into town, on our way to Old San Juan. Sure enough, the hotel was a knockout, right on the waterfront, and much more swank than we are ever used to on our debate trips, a true five star hotel. The rate was reasonable and we moved into a huge double room. We had a few hours to spare. Some of us went out to look around and others napped. I caught a few winks of sleep while we recovered from the tournament.

 

I awoke in time to dress for dinner. At precisely the appointed time Maria called from the lobby. I went down to meet them and was introduced to her husband, Dominic. They were concerned at my dress (a bit too formal) and encouraged me to go back to my room and dress down, as they suggested hiking around the hills of Old San Juan. I was all for that and immediately changed into a bright Hawaiian shirt, something they approved of.

 

It was a warm evening and we went traipsing all around Old San Juan, but I enjoyed the walk, the streets, and the company. It is a lovely place, and I am so thankful that Alegria and others worked so hard to retain its historic charm. We made our way to the top of the hill and found a small restaurant that they suggested. It was charming, and named after the famous Puerto Rican who had attended UVM, an impressive move on their part.

 

The food was truly delicious, the best I had in Puerto Rico (although mofungo is my single favorite item). I enjoyed my long conversation with Maria and Dominic. We talked about Puerto Rico, the culture and the celebrations, the tournament, her work over the last many months on making the tournament happen, and the kinds of strain such dedication to debate can have on ones personal life and relationships.

 

I so deeply appreciate Maria's dedication to debating and spreading its benefits to students that I just had to encourage her to stay involved and to do more. Her task was this tournament that now is over but I hope she will continue to help students at her university find their voices.

 

After dinner we walked down by the water where a huge ancient wall lies close to the water and has a lovely lighted walkway along its bottom, offering a long walk on the edge of the water for tourists, lovers, and people like us just appreciating the lovely evening. At the base of the wall for the first time since coming to Puerto Rico I felt absolutely no breeze, as winds are a constant factor on this tropical isle. Not to be denied, the breeze soon picked up again as we walked back by the park of the pigeons where I had been previously.

 

We walked by some handcraft vendors, and after scanning a number of them I selected one to buy a gift for my daughter Sarah Jane. I found a small pendant that almost perfectly matched one of her favorite images a leaping dolphin.

 

As we walked on we heard music and then saw dancing. An exhibition of traditional Puerto Rican music, singing, and dancing was taking place. We joined in and listened and watched for a good long while. It was delightful, combining some of the airy beauty of Cuban music with the driving beats of Caribbean soca music, it was unique and interesting. The dancers were excellent, and I especially like the "bomba"where the dancer and the drummer would have a contest to try and outdo each other as they followed the patterns of the other. They pulled up many tourists to dance and then asked them after where they were from, and most were from South America or Canada, and just a few from the USA.

 

As the exhibition ended we continued our walk back to the hotel. I was tired and so were they, and we said good-bye at the hotel. I hope to see both of them, again soon and to have an opportunity to work with Maria on another exciting debate project.

 

I caught up on some news and soon fell asleep in the room. Anthony, Carlos, and Jackie were, I hoped, having fun on the town (it was a Saturday night) but I know nothing of that.

CONTINUE TO THE NEXT DAY