Enrique Casas ’19, a child of Mexican immigrants who grew up on Chicago’s South Side, spoke Spanish at home but never took a grammar class or read a book or wrote a paper in the language.Until he came to Cambridge.Intrigued by the description of a course called “Spanish 49h, for Students of Latino Heritage,” which teaches colloquially fluent students the basis of formal and academic Spanish, Casas signed up. He learned more than grammar rules.“My Spanish was pretty good,” said Casas, a computer science concentrator who during the first 15 years of his life spent every summer in Mexico visiting relatives. “I learned about accents and punctuation, but what I enjoyed the most was discussing issues of identity affecting Latinos.”Throughout the course, students learn to accept the challenges of growing up in two cultures and speaking two languages, said María Luisa Parra, senior preceptor in Romance languages and literatures, who has taught the course since 2013.“In the beginning, they’re very insecure about their abilities to speak Spanish,” said Parra. “But as we study the history of Latinos in this country and the evolution of Spanish, they end up with a richer appreciation of the language and a better understanding of themselves.”Offered by the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, the course draws mainly children of Latino immigrants who learn to speak Spanish at home, and while their goal is to gain a more formal grasp of the language, they generally yearn to explore their roots and find answers to the question of belonging.“Second-generation Latinos feel we’re neither from here nor from there,” said Casas. “If I’m in Mexico, my Spanish is not good enough for them, and they see me as an American. In the United States, if people see me walking down the streets, they don’t say, ‘There goes the American.’ They say, ‘There goes the Mexican.’”The course reviews the history of Spanish in what is now the United States, going back to the 1600s when the Spaniards controlled the territory from Florida to California.For Hiram Rios Hernandez, M.P.P. ’17, who was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in Florida, the class helped him connect with students whose families hail from Cuba, Guatemala, Argentina, Colombia, and El Salvador, and to understand what it means to be Latino. “We’re united by a common language, culture, and history,” he said. “We’re part of the Latino experience in the United States, and we’re here to stay.” Harvard Law class helps student attorneys to serve their clients better Related Español para abogados (Spanish for lawyers) It also introduces students to Spanish literature and Latino popular culture. The students listened to songs by popular Latino singers, read Sandra Cisneros’ “La Casa en Mango Street,” and watched films such as “Frida,” about the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, and “Selena,” about the Tejano singer who was killed at age 23 by the president of her fan club.To help advance their writing skills, students are asked to write formal letters of introduction, book and movie reviews, and academic essays. For an in-class exercise, Parra had students write calaveras literarias, short humorous obituaries that are recited as part of the celebrations of the Day of the Dead in Mexico.The course even widened students’ employment opportunities. Such was the case with Dorothy Villarreal ’15, who was offered a job in Mexico. “The course gave me skills to write papers and perform in a professional and academic setting that I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Villarreal, who works at the Phillips Brooks House Center for Public Service and Engaged Leadership.Jocelyn Vazquez ’19, who is pursuing a joint concentration in government and Romance languages, also found the course beneficial. Vasquez grew up in San Antonio, Texas, where her parents settled after emigrating from Mexico.“It’s a cool way to connect with my roots because roots don’t die out,” she said. “It has definitely refined my language skills, it has advanced my education and my understanding of the history of Latinos in the United States, and it has also made my parents very happy.”That’s also true for Casas, who now watches Latino soap operas with his non-Hispanic girlfriend, who is interested in learning more about the culture. He relished that the course offered a place for students to discuss the issues that mark second-generation Latino immigrants.“At times, the class felt like a support group,” said Casas with a chuckle. “In the beginning, we focused on grammar, but we ended talking a lot about identity.”As for where he belongs, he now knows. The United States is his casa.
The European pensions industry has taken a dim view of recent news the European Commission is planning to submit IORPs to stress tests as early as next year.Earlier this week, IPE revealed that the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) is preparing stress tests for institutions for occupational retirement provision (IORPs) for some time in 2015, according to Patrick Darlap, chairman of EIOPA’s Financial Stability Committee.James Walsh, EU and international policy lead at the UK National Association of Pension Funds, said EIOPA’s plan to begin stress tests in 2015 risked imposing “new and unnecessary burdens on schemes without strengthening protection for members”.“The UK has just introduced a revised approach to the regulation of DB schemes funding, and we have a range of initiatives underway to ensure quality in DC schemes,” he said. “It is difficult to see what value EIOPA stress tests would add, or what mandate EIOPA has for this project.”The Finnish Pension Alliance (TELA) said EIOPA should hold off on aiming for early stress tests, and that EU regulation should be changed to take account of the social aspects of pension funds.Ilkka Geitlin, legal counsel at TELA, said: “Instead of aiming for the stress tests, EIOPA should wait and see what direction economic development will take and what the new Commission will look like.”He said that, having reviewed the recent draft of the Shareholder Directive and IORP II, he questioned whether EIOPA and European Commission completely understood the social and labour dimensions of IORPs.“There seems to be an ambition to regulate these actors as if they were asset managers, banks or investment funds, which is troublesome since IORPs manage social pension security, not asset management per se, although managing the funded parts of pensions is necessary for actual payments,” he said.A spokesman at EIOPA confirmed to IPE that the main objective of the stress test is to “assess the resilience of IORPs to adverse market developments”, such as a prolonged low-interest-rate environment.He said the stress test would cover a “representative sample” of all types of IORPs in the EU, including defined benefit, defined contribution and hybrid schemes.The spokesman pointed out that the test was part of the regulator’s remit to “conduct regular stress tests for IORPs and insurance undertakings”, and that there was “no relation with the review of the IORP Directive” scheduled for 2018.Helmut Aden, chairman at the VFPK, Germany’s association for company pension funds, said the stress tests would reveal EIOPA’s hand on which method it preferred for calculating additional capital requirements.He said “all signs pointed to the introduction of such requirements for IORPs in future”, but he questioned the use of stress tests in the current market environment.“It is more than questionable to talk about a mark-to-market approach when the market is massively manipulated by politics,” he said.Germany’s other pension fund association, the aba, also called on the European watchdog to apply the stress tests “responsibly”.Klaus Stiefermann, managing director of the association, warned that pension funds needed money and resources for the tests, and argued that they should only be put in place if the results provided valuable information.He also pointed to the “major political impact” of such tests and called on EIOPA to make use of them “as responsibly as possible”.The Dutch Pensions Federation said it was not surprised EIOPA wanted to link a stress test to a second quantitative impact study (QIS), as this would “make the conditions comparable”.But the industry organisation said it expected any second QIS would again conclude that quantitative demands at European level were “complex”, and that the introduction of the holistic balance sheet (HBS) would “prove difficult”.It also reiterated its view that the pensions industry would require “ample time to thoroughly map out the impact of the HBS”.