Inaugural Rice Seminar to feature US government’s point person on human trafficking Oct. 23

Luis CdeBaca’s talk to be preceded by premiere of ‘The Cantinera’ Oct. 22

U.S. Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, the senior adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who was appointed by President Obama to coordinate U.S. government activities in the global fight against contemporary forms of slavery, will kick off of the inaugural 2012-13 Rice Seminar, “Human Trafficking Past and Present: Crossing Disciplines, Crossing Borders,” at Rice University Oct. 23. 

CdeBaca’s visit will be preceded by the Oct. 22 premiere at Rice of “The Cantinera,” a documentary by Houston filmmaker Ruth Villatoro that exposes a niche of human trafficking in the U.S. where “cantineras” (Spanish for female bartenders) or Latina women drink and prostitute themselves for a living in Latin bars or cantinas by means of force, fraud or coercion.  

CdeBaca’s public talk and Q-and-A session will be at 6 p.m. in Rice’s BioScience Research Collaborative auditorium, 6500 Main St. The “The Cantinera” screening will be at 7 p.m. at the Rice Media Center, 6100 Main St. Both events are free and open to the public. RSVPs are requested to For a campus map and parking information, visit      

Co-directed by history professors James Sidbury and Kerry Ward, the seminar has convened a distinguished group of four faculty fellows from outside of Rice, one Rice faculty member, one Rice postdoctoral fellow and two Rice graduate students to study human trafficking and historical slavery from several disciplinary perspectives — from public health to women’s studies to political science and others. The seminar will use Houston as one of its case studies to examine the public and private philanthropic actors working to combat new forms of slave trade and labor exploitation. The most tangible product of the seminar will be scholarly publications by the participants, including a book.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as “a crime against humanity. It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through the use of force, coercion or other means for the purpose of exploiting them.” Human trafficking has been identified as the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, second only to drug trafficking as the world’s most profitable industry. According to the latest United Nations estimates, nearly 2.5 million people from 127 different countries are being trafficked into 137 countries around the world.

This fall and throughout the remainder of the inaugural year, the Rice Seminar will bring local and international experts on human trafficking to campus to share their insights and perspectives with the Houston community.

The Rice Seminars program is an initiative of the Dean of Humanities, funded by the School of Humanities and the Humanities Research Center, and is designed to promote humanistic research.

For more information about the current and upcoming Rice Seminars, the topics, participants and events, visit and For more information about “The Cantinera,” visit


About Jeff Falk