Posted by Marcella Jewell
Government Professor Aldo Vacs might be known for the sheer number of books covering his office wall-to-wall. Described by his colleagues as one of the most well read professors in the government department it is no surprise his office resembles a condensed version of the Library of Congress. What students may not know about the Argentinean native is that he was exiled from his homeland amidst a military coup in the 1970s.
At the end of his senior year at university, his life was uprooted as the coup gained momentum. Seeking refuge in Brazil, Vacs continued his education, developing a passion for Latin American relations.
Vacs grew up in Mendoza, Argentina, close to the Andes Mountains. His involvement with grade school student government paved the way for his participation in the youth revolts when the military coup overtook Argentina. The radical transformation in Argentina between 1976 and 1983 from a democracy to a dictatorship created massive uproar among the youth. Vacs participated in youth street revolts when students were unfairly forced to leave their studies behind.
In Brazil, Vacs's new home, a period of liberalization emerged as another military coup lost support. Vacs studied political and social science at the school of sociology at the Univerdade de Sao Paulo. He began to work in Brazil and became involved in demonstrations for democracy. Vacs commented that his inspiration to study political science and sociology stemmed from "the general situation in Argentina," along with "the need for change." He was especially inspired by the military coup and read constantly in order to understand the totalitari infiltrating his country.
Vacs expressed concern with people's lack of acknowledgment for eminent political changes around the world. "It is imperative for people who are going to be citizens of a democracy or a culture to have a sufficient background. They must acknowledge what is going on... More and more globalization does have an impact on the youth" he said. On the Colbert Report and Daily Show-popular shows on campus-Vacs comments, "Sometimes you can make some jokes, but international perspective is growing. You don't always see so much interest, seeing how the rest of the world is changing."
Vacs relocated to Pittsburgh and received his M.A. and Ph.D at the University of Pittsburg. The University of Pittsburg Press published his dissertation research paper titled, Discreet Partners: Argentina and the USSR since 1917, in 1984. The former Soviet Union ruled with a right wing military dictatorship, similar to Argentina during the military coup.
When asked about his pursuits for the future, Vacs commented on his interest in the consolidation of democracy in Latin America. He plans to study the transformation of the relationship with Brazil and other Latin American affairs this summer with the Fulbright Scholarship. Vacs comments, "There is much more familiarity with international affairs than what there used to be...college is pushing [students] in that direction."
Vacs's immersion into Latin American culture and first hand experience with the demolition of democracy triggered his desire to understand the precarious politics that reshaped his life. With his cheerful attitude and willingness to share, Professor Aldo Vacs brings his first hand experience to his students.