Mathematicians into exile

Matemáticos en el exilio Matemáticos en el exilio Matemáticos en el exilio Matemáticos en el exilioMatemáticos en el exilio

In the 70’s several countries from South Latin America went into military dictatorship. The academic community had to face harassment, closures of faculties and sometimes, incarcerations, which forced them into exile. We are interested in the case of several mathematicians from the probability and statistics area, who had to exile and in the academic and personal consequences of this phase of history.

A number of them, after escaping towards a series of foreign countries, found refuge in Venezuela, where democracy and the economic conditions made it possible to receive a large foreign scientific community. Along interviews with several members of this community, we have addressed the following themes:

  • the conditions that made impossible remaining in their country under a dictatorship,
  • the route to exile, a complex path that lead several scientists to Venezuela,
  • their personal life during the exile,
  • their scientific life during the exile,
  • the way back home at the end of the dictatorships,
  • the way back seen from the host country that was Venezuela,
  • the creation of the CLAPEM (Latin American congress of probability and mathematical statistics), as a result of the forced gathering of a large community in Venezuela.

These testimonies seem important to us at a science history level as well as at the level of historic knowledge of a facet of the dictatorships in the southern cone of Latine America. Nowadays, they are also interesting to put in perspective with the situation of Venezuela and of the Venezuelan research workers that abandon their country in order to seek for better life and working conditions in other Latin American countries.

The project already includes severel interviews, but we are yet in an exploratory phase. For the moment, we have interviewed three scientists that went into exile in the 70’s: Enrique Cabaña, Ricardo Fraiman and Jorge Vidart (Uruguay). We have also interviewed the Venezuelan mathematicians Carenne Ludeña and José León, that lived the arrival of the foreign scientists in their country as well as their departure. Last, we interviewed the French mathematician Didier Dacunha-Castelle that is a witness of the evolution of probability and statistics from the 70’s and a key-figure of cooperation between France and Latin America. We need to keep on interviewing more scientists and historians. Our project includes also collecting material from those times such as photos and texts, in order to document the situation that was lived.

The form that we want to give to all this material is that of a documentary film based on the interviews. We also contemplate the possibility of an exhibition based on projecting the interviews and presenting the collected documents, photos, mathematical articles and personal objects.