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A Report on the Interamerican Congress of Psychology

APA's presentations included talks on topics from health disparities to psychology education and training, to advocacy, violence prevention, adolescent drinking, and women's issues, and a lively books booth.

By Merry Bullock, PhD

The Interamerican Congress of Psychology, June 28-July 2, concluded on July 2 with a closing ceremony that feted the Congress organizers, the University de Valle Guatemala, which hosted the event, the 100 plus student volunteers, and the SIP Board. Speakers also paid tribute to Andres Consoli, President of SIP, whose health prevented his attending the event he and Congress President Maria del Pilar Grazioso had passionately planned with their team of collaborators over the last several years.

With around 2000 attendees, the Congress provided a rich program of research, policy, films, discussion and cultural events. Student hosts, identified by their bright yellow shirts with "volunteer" in three languages, were ubiquitously available to guide and assist. Representation was rich, with participants from each country in the Americas, and from many countries in Europe, Asia and Africa.

APA's participation was led by APA President James Bray, President-Elect Carol Goodheart, and APA CEO Norman Anderson. Other staff attending included Julia da Silva and Annie Toro from the Public Interest Directorate, and Sally Leverty and Merry Bullock from the Office of International Affairs. APA's presentations included talks on topics from health disparities to psychology education and training, to advocacy, violence prevention, adolescent drinking, and women's issues, and a lively books booth.

A description of the Congress from APA President James Bray follows.

Presidential Travels: Note from James H. Bray to the Council of Representatives

Travel Log: July 2, 2009

At 35,000 feet headed home from Guatemala. I left Guatemala with a great sense of pride about how APA is contributing to the development of psychology throughout Latin America. After spending 5 days of busy and often passionate discussions with colleagues from throughout the Americas, it is clear that psychology has great potential for making a difference here.

International conferences are a bit different than most conferences I attend in the USA, as they not only include excellent programs during the day, but also a number of cultural and social events in the evenings. These events are usually high on ceremony. They are sponsored by the various psychological societies in conjunction with the national governments. The social and cultural events are held in government facilities (museums, embassies, etc.) and attended by ranking government officials. Hotels are for rest, not for meetings.

Interamerican Congress of Psychology (CIP) June 27-July 2, 2009 Guatemala City, Guatemala

The Congress is organized by the Interamerican Psychological Association. The Congress had about 2000 people in attendance and was held on the campus of a local university. Most of the programs were in Spanish, and included many psychologists and psychology students from the USA.

The opening ceremony was held in a national theater and included a moving performance by Guatemalan and Mayan performers. Former APA President, Albert Bandura, received an honorary doctorate and special lifetime achievement award. Carol Goodheart, Norman Anderson, Merry Bullock, and former APA President, Frank Farley, were at the conference, in addition to over 100 psychologists from the USA. Merry Bullock, director of the APA office on international affairs, does an incredible job in representing APA with our international psychology organizations. I was pleased to see a group of students carrying around signs with the National Latino/a Psychological Association banner. They came from universities in California, New York, Texas, Wisconsin, and others. There was a gathering of graduate students from across the Americas, lead by former APAGS chair, Nadia Hasan.

There were several sessions in which presidents and executive officers from the various psychological associations met to discuss organizational issues within their country. Brazil stated that they have over 200,000 psychologists that include both masters and doctoral level professionals.

Changing of the Rose Ceremony

After the first full day of the conference there was a ceremony and reception at the Palocio de la Cultura to honor the conference president, Dr. Maria del Pilar Grazioso, and Guatemalan psychologists. After the end of the Guatemalan civil war in 1996, the government created a statue that symbolizes the peace treaty. Each day they place a new white rose on the statue to symbolize the peace. On special occasions a person is allowed to change the rose to honor their contributions. This ceremony honored the incredible work of Dr. Maria del Pilar in developing psychology in Guatemala. Dr. del Pilar was named an Ambassador of Peace, one of the highest honors for a Guatemalan citizen. Dr. del Pilar received her Masters degree from the University of Houston.

APA Event

This was one of the "hottest" tickets at the CIP. The APA hosted an incredible reception in honor of CIP at the National Museum of Archeology and Ethnology and the Carlos Merida Museum of Modern Art. These two museums (across the street from each other) were opened just for this reception. The museum director provided private tours and the US cultural ambassador attended to represent the US government. The reception began with a memorable performance by local musical group and was followed by a large gathering (over 300 people) for cultural tours and discussions. This will be one of the great memories of being APA president.

Hot Issues

Psychology in Latin America is growing rapidly. While CIP welcomes the support and participation of APA, there are mild tensions about the influence of the APA in Latin America. Given our language differences, there was much discussion about how psychology across the Americas can be integrated. CIP provides an important forum for these discussions.

Adiós--hasta luego--on to Oslo for the European Congress of Psychology. See you in Toronto.

James Ψ