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First published in Dartmouth Life, October 2000
You can't keep a good mind down. When it comes to Charles Trumbull '02, you can't even keep him on the continent.
This Morgantown, W.V., native and philosophy major has been hopscotching around the Spanish-speaking world since age 16, when he spent his high school sophomore year on a Rotary Exchange in Costa Rica. While there, he took a week-long vacation to the island that has since captured his attention-Cuba.
Following his first year at Dartmouth, Trumbull received a First Year Summer Research Grant, as well as a Waterhouse Grant from the dean of the faculty, to spend a month in Cuba studying Fidel Castro's economic reforms in the post-USSR era.
But when he arrived, he found himself drawn to studying Cuba's social contradictions in light of its economy and government. Living with a Cuban economist and his family, Trumbull spent time speaking with people, walking through working-class neighborhoods and enjoying Cuba's carnaval.
"Havana," he says in a flawless Spanish accent, "is a gorgeous city. It has a different rhythm to it."
The paper he produced upon returning to Dartmouth will be published this January in the journal Cuba in Transition. In August Trumbull spoke at the annual conference of the Association to Study the Cuban Economy in Miami, earning not only scholarly attention (and even a few job offers), but a cash award for the best undergraduate or graduate student article.
Trumbull finds his research has had another, unintended effect: family bonding. Trumbull's economist father studies comparative systems. While he has focused heavily on Russia, Trumbull got him interested in Cuba, which he points out "is much warmer."
"Cuba is this thing my father and I can talk about for hours, sitting in the living room, smoking Cuban cigars and drinking rum. It's great."
Next up: another trip to Cuba. This January Trumbull will return to Havana, this time studying prostitution and sex tourism in Cuba.
"In 1959 Castro spoke out adamantly against prostitution, and for 30 years, there wasn't any," he says. "In the '90s, it returned. Castro could eliminate it again, but he doesn't. He knows sex tourism brings in a huge flow of U.S. dollars."
This, Trumbull says, is a huge slap in the face to socialist morality. "It shows socialism failing. I want to understand why Castro allows it."
But that question will just have to wait for now. After a sophomore spring in Argentina on the Spanish Foreign Study Program, Trumbull is again leaving the States, spending fall term in Edinburgh, Scotland, on the philosophy FSP.
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