Chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba (2011-2014); researcher, producer, documentarian, and facilitator of collaborative agreements between U.S. and Cuban institutions

John Caulfield & Vanessa K. Harper

About the Speaker

John Caulfield

For almost 40 years, John Caulfield served as a career American diplomat who managed some of the most complex relations in Latin America for the United States, most recently as Chief of the US Interests Section in Havana, Cuba.

While in Cuba, Mr. Caulfield negotiated pragmatic agreements on immigration, environmental protection, civil aviation and cultural affairs. He also supported the aspirations of ordinary Cubans for political rights and economic opportunities in a difficult environment. As Chief of the US Interests Section, Mr. Caulfield led a team that provided a window for the US Government to view the developments in Cuba. His analysis was critical to the formulation of US policy.

Mr. Caulfield has also held the positions of Deputy Chief of Mission in Caracas, Venezuela (2008), Consul General in London, UK (2005), Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Lima, Peru (2002), Consul General in Manila, Philippines (1999), Director for Legislative and Public Affairs for the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs (1997) and US Consul in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico (1993).

Earlier in his career abroad, he served as Special Assistant to the Ambassador in Brasilia, Brazil; Political-Economic officer in Lisbon, Portugal; and Vice Consul in Cali, Colombia. In Washington was Deputy Director for Brazil, Deputy Director of the Office of Consular Anti-fraud programs, Country Officer for Argentina and Press Officer for Consular Affairs. Prior to entering the Foreign Service, Mr. Caulfield worked in international banking.

Mr. Caulfield's awards include a Presidential Meritorious Service Award, the Department of State’s Distinguished Service Award and the Secretary of State’s Award for Innovation in the Use of Technology. He received his BA from St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA. in International Relations and Latin American Studies, and is a graduate of the Department of State’s Senior Seminar in National Security and international Affairs.

Mr. Caulfield is a baseball fan who had the honor to be a guest TV and radio commentator during the broadcast of professional baseball games in Venezuela. He is also a jazz aficionado and has hosted performances of American jazz musicians in Peru, Venezuela and Cuba. He and his wife, Nancy Aker Caulfield, have one daughter.


Vanessa K. Harper

Vanessa K. Harper has lived and worked in Cuba as a researcher, producer, documentarian, and facilitator of collaborative agreements between U.S. and Cuban institutions since 2005. She is also the founder of Support the Cuban People, a charitable organization whose activities directly support the Cuban people residing in Cuba through programming that spans humanitarian need, art and culture, and scholarship funds for established and emerging entrepreneurs.

She is former Executive Producer at TigerLily Media, a full-service creative production and post-production company rooted in the film industry, and previously served three years as Cuba Scholar in Residence at Jacksonville University, where she co-created The Cuba Project and facilitated a collaborative agreement between the university and the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation. Prior to that she worked in Accounts & PR at Brunet Garcia Advertising and as Director of Education and Community Outreach for the World Affairs Council of Jacksonville.

Vanessa holds a BS in Environmental Studies from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and an MS in Interdisciplinary Ecology from the University of Florida, with a concentration in Food and Resource Economics and Cuban Studies. She is currently completing an MA in Oral History at Columbia University focused on her sixteen-year, long-format documentary work with rural communities in the western mountains of Cuba.