I am very happy finally to have this issue on Social Work Education finally ready. My interest in Latin American social work began with my visit in Brazil more than 20 years ago, when my daughter was an exchange student. I had the opportunity to talk to social workers with my daughter as an interpreter. I met social workers and visited a new local community in Ribeirau Preto with impressive modern childcare institutions and good social and health facilities. I also visited a poor family living in a favela, and a residential care institution for homeless children with limited resources. Since then I have been interested to learn more about social work traditions and development in Latin America.
When the Global Social Work Conference took place in Santiago de Chile, I met again social workers and educators from the region. Conference delegates were also invited to do field visits. One of those took place in the memorial for thousands of victims of the Pinochet regime. This visit made a lifetime impression on me.
We also visited people in a local community who during the military regime had lost many people. The survivors celebrated their lost family members through artistic creations, symbolic of the special interests of their loved and lost ones. These works documented a salute as well as a healing process. In the association for social workers in Santiago de Chile, I have seen many pictures of social workers, who "disappeared" during the dictatorship. I have learned how this regime has left scars between groups of social workers, who felt they had to leave Chile or lose their lives, and the others, who stayed in order to fight the regime. All those social workers have fought for social justice at a very high risk. Also today attention to politics is probably more linked to the social work profession in Latin America than most other places.
Later on I have had the privilege of attending important regional social work conferences in Santiago de Chile and in Ecuador with hundreds of attendances. However, each time, I have visited this region I have faced the language barrier, as I do not speak Spanish. I thought that not only I, but social work education in general, was deprived of a large and very important source of knowledge. Although Spanish is an official language of IASSW and efforts are made in order to have as much translation as economically possible, there is still a language barrier. This may also make it more difficult for the schools from Latin America to become members of IASSW and for social work educators to attend the Global Social Work Conferences, where the dominating language is still English. Social Dialogue turned out to be an opportunity to share knowledge from this region in both Spanish and English, and it has been very interesting for me to read the many interesting and different contributions from Latin American social work educators. After my readings I realize that along with the different history and development social work educators also share many thoughts and challenges. The neoliberal wave and populistic approaches are challenging social work and social work education all over the world to stand up against the return to xenophobia and sexism. At the same time there is a wide awareness to an anti-oppressive approach, empowerment, indigenous knowledge, feminist approaches, and intersectional models for intervention.
It is hoped that this issue can become a step towards more and fruitful contact and exchange of knowledge between social work education in the Latin American Region and the rest of the social work world.
Collaborating in this issue has been a full adventure, not only because it brought together very interesting and common social work's subjects for the whole region, but also because it gave me the opportunity to be in contact with several prominent thinkers of Latin American Social Work.
These authors are those who build social work literature for Latin American students, and those who try to keep critical thinking among professionals and students. Their fights are shown in the common issues emerging in these articles, such as the historical association of the profession with ideology and politics, usually Marxism, to promote social change; and at the same time, deploring the strict alignment of Latin American Social Work to research and teaching only the pragmatic version of Marxism.
Another recurrent subject is the relevant influence of the Roman Catholic Church, embodied in the movements of Liberation Theology, initiated by the Second Vatican Council (1961-1965), and the meeting of the Latin American bishops in Medellin in 1968.
Lastly, the role of social workers promoting social movements to represent the interests of disempowered people, like indigenous peoples, farmers, women, children, workers; not as individuals but as movements. The current neoliberal colonization makes it difficult to keep these movements alive, resistance to status quo is a strategy social workers should embrace.
I am sure this issue is not only a bridge between Latin America Social Work and the world, but also a new bridge for collaboration among these Latin American thinkers of social work.