Professor Carlos F. Díaz-Alejandro was born in La Habana, Cuba in 1937. He finished High School (Bachillerato) at Los Hermanos Maristas there. He then went to the University of Miami in Ohio and graduated in 1957. He went on to obtain a Ph.D. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1961. He was appointed Assistant Professor of Economics at Yale University (1961-1965) and subsequently moved to the University of Minnesota (1965-1969), where he was appointed Full Professor at the age of 25. In 1969 he returned to Yale and in 1984 was appointed Professor of Economics at Columbia University, a position he held until his untimely death in 1985 at the age of 48. He wanted to write an economic history of Latin America. He was a person of vast culture.
As part of his distinguished career, Díaz-Alejandro served as a consultant to many organizations, among them the Commission on United States-Latin American Studies (Linowitz Commission), the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America (the Kissinger Commission) and the Brookings Panel on Economic Activity. He published more than 70 articles and four books, including Foreign Trade Regimes and Economic Development: Colombia and Essays on Economic History of the Argentine Republic, and was Editor of Política Económica en Centro y Periferia.
Throughout his career he won the admiration and friendship of both colleagues and students. His exceptional ability to combine theory with historical knowledge and policy application in his writings and teaching, and his love for Cuba, should serve as an inspiration to future generation of economists and social scientists alike.
Some of ASCE’s founders were friends, former students, or colleagues of Carlos F. Díaz-Alejandro and they put forth and implemented the idea of inviting distinguished speakers to deliver a lecture in memoriam of Carlos. This started with Felipe Pazos, who was the first President of Cuba’s Central Bank and also Carlos’ friend. This invited lecture has continued into the present as an occasional lecture series.
First lecture series
The first Carlos F. Díaz-Alejandro Lecture was delivered by Dr. Felipe Pazos at the Salon de las Americas in the Inter-American Development Bank Washington, DC on December 28, 1990.
Dr. Pazos dissertation was on “Problemas Económicos de Cuba en el Período de Transición” (“The Economic Problems of Cuba in the Period of Transition”.) His presentation was included in Volume I of Cuba in Transition, the publication that presents the papers presented at ASCEs Annual Conferences. Felipe Pazos, a distinguished Cuban economist and former teacher of Carlos F. Díaz- Alejandro, was the first President of the Banco Nacional de Cuba (Cubas Central Bank); he was president of the bank from its establishment in 1948 until 1952, and again in 1959). Professor Pazos was Research Director for the Center for Latin American Monetary Studies (Centro de Estudios Monetarios Latinoamericano)(1954–57), Member of the Committee of Nine of the Alliance for Progress (1961–66), Senior Economist at the Inter-American Development Bank (1966-75), and Economic Advisor to the Central Bank of Venezuela until his death.
Second lecture series
Professor Guillermo Calvo delivered the second Carlos F. Díaz-Alejandro Lecture at the American Economic Associations Annual Meeting in January 1993. Professor Calvos lecture was on “Capital Inflows and Real Exchange Rate Appreciation,” a topic on which Carlos F. Díaz-Alejandro had written. At the time, Professor Calvo was Senior Research Advisor at the International Monetary Fund and was in the process of being appointed Professor at the University of Maryland. He is currently Chief Economist of the Inter-American Development Bank.
Third lecture series
The third Carlos F. Díaz-Alejandro Lecture was delivered by Professor Anne Krueger at the American Economic Association Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, on January 1995. Professor Kruegers lecture was on “Regional and Multilateral Pacts in the World Economy.” Professor Krueger is a distinguished US economist who taught at Duke and Minnesota Universities and was Vice-President of Research at the World Bank. She has written extensively in the fields of development economics and public choice. At the time Professor Krueger was a member of the faculty of Stanford University and President-Elect of the American Economic Association. Currently she is Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.
Fourth lecture series
Professor Ronald Findlay delivered the fourth Carlos F. Díaz-Alejandro Lecture at the Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association in New Orleans in January 1997. Professor Findlays lecture was on “The Political Economy of Trade and Development.” Professor Findlay was at the time the Chairman of the Economics Department at Columbia University.
Fifth lecture series
The fifth Carlos F. Díaz-Alejandro Lecture was delivered by Professor Jagdish Bhagwati, Arthur Lehman Professor of Economics at Columbia University, at the Annual Meetings of the American Economic Association in New York, NY, on January 1999. His lecture was on “Free Trade and Social Programs: Complements or Substitutes.” Professor Bhagwati is also André Meter Senior Fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations and Special Advisor to the United Nations on Globalization.
Sixth lecture series
The sixth Carlos F. Díaz-Alejandro Lecture took place at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC on March 7th, 2005. Dr. José Antonio Ocampo, the Under-Secretary General of the United Nations for Economic and Social Affairs (ECOSOC), and former Secretary General of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and Finance Minister of Colombia, was the lecturer. Dr. Ocampo’s recent work included an excellent essay on Latin America’s Growth and Equity during the 1990’s in the Spring 2004 Journal of Economic Perspectives. Mr. Ocampo was introduced by IDB President Enrique Iglesias.
Seventh lecture series
The seventh Carlos F. Díaz-Alejandro Lecture took place at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC on May 12, 2009. Dr. Carmelo Mesa Lago, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Economics and Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburg and Recipient of the First International Labor Organization Prize on Decent Work presented “The Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on Social Security and Other Social Spending in Latin America,” based on his research on Social Welfare in the World.
The event was jointly sponsored by the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy and the Inter-American Development Bank and was held on May 12, 2009, at the Enrique V. Iglesias Conference Center (Cr-2), Inter-American Development Bank, 1330 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC.
Eighth lecture series
The eighth Carlos Díaz-Alejandro lecture “Why Reading Díaz-Alejandro is Essential for Understanding Financial Crises” was offered on April 28, 2011 by Professor Carmen M. Reinhart in Washington, DC at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, 1750 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC. In her lecture she mapped the lessons expounded in three of Díaz-Alejandro’s landmark publications into the ongoing financial crisis. She tightly weaved the writings of Díaz-Alejandro in which he describes the lessons of the Latin American 1980s debt crisis (and its aftermath) into the crises in advanced economies today. The event went very well, and the Board thanks Prof. Reinhart for her formidable presentation, as well as the Peterson Institute for their generous hospitality. To view the paper please click on the title of the lecture above.
Prof. Carmen M. Reinhart is one of the most distinguished international economists of today and co-author of the 2009 bestseller book about financial crises This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. Prof. Carmen M. Reinhart recently joined the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC, and was until recently Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for International Economics at the University of Maryland.
Professor Reinhart held positions as Chief Economist and Vice President at the investment bank Bear Stearns in the 1980s, where she became interested in financial crises, international contagion and commodity price cycles. Subsequently, she spent several years at the International Monetary Fund including serving as Deputy Director of the Research Department. She is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Research Fellow at Centre for Economic Policy Research and a member of the Council of Foreign Relations.
Professor Reinhart has written and published on a variety of topics in macroeconomics and international finance and trade including: international capital flows, exchange rates, inflation and commodity prices, banking and sovereign debt crises, currency crashes, and contagion.
Ninth lecture series
Princeton University Professor Alejandro Portes delivered ASCE’s prestigious ninth Carlos Díaz-Alejandro Lecture in New York City at the New School University on May 2013. The lecture was particularly timely given recent changes at the time to Cuba’s migration legislation, the rising electoral importance of Latinos in the United States, and demographic changes in the Cuban-American community, all subjects which Portes had addressed before.
Tenth lecture series
During April 2015 at the New School, New York, Professor Pedro Sanchez, a renowned Earth Institute Professor from Columbia University and McArthur Fellow, delivered a paper entitled, “Feeding Cuba: Sustainable Agriculture and Challenges of Production in Cuba Today.” Professor Sanchez is the director of the Agriculture and Food Security Center and former co-chair of the United Nations Millennium Project Hunger Task Force and former Director General of the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya. During this lecture, Dr. Sanchez addressed questions of food security and food production in the developing world with special attention to Cuba and its prospects for US-Cuban commercial engagement, enhanced private enterprise in Cuba’s agricultural sector, and improvements in Cubans’ nutrition and standard of living. The presentation was particularly timely given the recent historic turning point with the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. For the future of US-Cuban economic relations, agriculture, as presented during this lecture, represents a significant opportunity for trade and sustainability. This lecture was co-sponsored by the New School and the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE).
Eleventh lecture series
A highlight of the 2018 Conference of the Association for the Study of the Cuba Economy is the Carlos Díaz-Alejandro Lecture. The 2018 Lecture on “Identity, Pluralism, and Democracy,” was delivered by Professor Andrés Velasco, Former Finance Minister of Chile. In this lecture Velasco considered the rise of identity politics, especially in its extreme form of populism, and its consequences for our understanding of democratic governance. Professor Velasco started with his memories of Carlos Díaz-Alejandro and his own work on Díaz-Alejandro’s thought. Díaz-Alejandro was a formative influence both in Velasco’s decision to study economics and the way in which he approached those studies.
Andres Velasco started with three political economy puzzles. The first is why do successful states like the United Kingdom vote for Brexit to abandon the European Union. When one looks at the data, those most unaffected by EU membership voted in favor of exit. Second, why do people choose to hire competent dentists but incompetent politicians. In that respect he noted the results of recent elections. The third asks why do governments adopt policies that hurt many people. He noted the policies producing hyperinflation in Venezuela. But he also noted that this was neither the first time nor the first place that witnessed this propensity. More generally, he wondered what explains the explosion of populism in the world today. There appears to be something in common with global populism, one which has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the politics of identity. These trends point to decisions that are individually rational but collectively irrational; individually constrained-efficient but collectively inefficient. A political economy of sorts is at work, he argued, that is worth exploring.
The following list of publications celebrate the rich and extensive academic contributions made by Carlos F. Díaz-Alejandro during his career:
- Guillermo A. Calvo, Ronald Findlay, Pentti Kouri, Jorge De MacEdo, eds. Debt, Stabilization, and Development: Essays in Memory of Carlos Díaz-Alejandro
Blackwell Publishers, 1989.
- Adolfo Figueroa, Rosemary Thorp, Pedro Malan, Gustav Ranis, Mario Marcel, Nora Lustig, eds. Hacia Un Crecimiento Moderno: Ensayos en Honor de Carlos Díaz-Alejandro
Inter-American Development Bank, 1996.
- Gustav Ranis and Carlos Federico Díaz Alejandro, eds. En Route to Modern Growth: Latin America in the 1990s: Essays in Honor of Carlos Díaz-Alejandro
Inter-American Development Bank, 1995.
- P. Bardhan, A. Fishlow, J. Behrman, eds. International Trade, Investment, Macro Policies, and History: Essays in Memory of Carlos F. Díaz-Alejandro
Elsevier Science Ltd, 1988.
- Carlos Federico Díaz-Alejandro and Andres Velasco, eds. Trade, Development and the World Economy: Selected Essays of Carlos F. Díaz-Alejandro
Blackwell Publishers, 1988.