April 18, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Alumni News | Hurtado Torres Has Dynamic Career as Educator, Researcher in Chile

Dr. Sebastian Hurtado Torres and is currently assistant professor of history at Universidad Austral in Valdivia, Chile.

He earned a Ph.D. in History from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University in 2016. He also earned a Certificate of Contemporary History, which helped prepare him for his work as an educator and researcher.

In addition to teaching courses at Universidad Austral, Torres has completed a manuscript for publication through Cornell University Press and has contributed to the Chilean Foreign Ministry’s investigation into an international legal dispute between Chile and Bolivia.

The Contemporary History Institute caught up with Torres recently about what he has been doing.

You are currently teaching at Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia as the equivalent of an assistant professor in the U.S. What classes are you teaching at the moment? 

Sebastian Hurtado Torres, portrait

Dr. Sebastian Hurtado Torres

At Universidad Austral I teach the 19th- and 20th-century Chilean history courses, a seminar on political history for senior students, a course on world history since 1776, and a grad course on current historiography, in tandem with another colleague. In other universities I’ve taught courses on U.S. foreign relations and Latin American history.

In addition to your teaching responsibilities, you are working with a group of historians assisting the Chilean Foreign Ministry on a case being looked at by the International Court of Justice. What does this case entail, and what do you and your fellow historians bring to the table in this kind of project?

The case was brought to the court by the government of Bolivia, which claims that Chile is under an obligation to negotiate with Bolivia in order to grant the latter an outlet to the sea. Bolivia is a landlocked country since the end of the War of the Pacific in the 19th century, in which Chile occupied and annexed Bolivia’s coastal province. This was sanctioned by a treaty in 1904. During the 20th century, Chile and Bolivia talked in several occasions about this matter, and in more than one opportunity Chile manifested its willingness to consider granting Bolivia sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean through a corridor in territories that formerly belonged to Peru (which was defeated in the War of the Pacific, too). As historians, we were requested to provide information about the historic context in which Chilean-Bolivian relations have unfolded since independence and, in my case, doing research in Chilean and U.S. archives for that purpose. I wrote a number of reports on different aspects of the relation between both countries and passed on the Chilean juridical team many documents I’ve found in my own research.

You doctoral dissertation has been reviewed favorably by Cornell University Press and is in the early stages of becoming a book. What is the focus of your research and where did you acquire your source material? 

The manuscript is an improved version of my dissertation, titled “The Gathering Storm: The United States, Eduardo Frei’s Revolution in Liberty, and the Polarization of Chilean Politics, 1964-1970.” It deals with the involvement of the United States, especially through its embassy in Santiago, in Chilean politics during the Frei administration. For the dissertation, I visited and gathered material from the National Archives II, the John F. Kennedy and the Lyndon B. Johnson presidential libraries, the Historical Archive of the Chilean Foreign Ministry, and the Eduardo Frei Library, among others. I am currently collaborating with my Chilean mentor, Dr. Joaquin Fermandois, on a research project on South American international relations in the 1960s and 1970s. For this project, I have visited the Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter presidential libraries in the U.S., the Archive of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry and the National Archives of the UK.

How did your experience at the Contemporary History Institute help get you established in your current profession? 

CHI contributed significantly to my professional development. The courses that composed the Contemporary History certificate allowed me and my classmates to reach a deeper understanding of some issues that are crucial to our discipline, such as particular methodological approaches and critiques of the field. In a more practical way, CHI contributed with generous funding for some of my research trips and gave me a fellowship when my Chilean-government scholarship ran out. The facilities the CHI had at my time in Athens were also of great help for working and also socializing with other CHI students. That social and intellectual exchange made my time in Athens a very happy one.

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