Bringing Andean wisdom to the US

In summer 2022 Gaby Vargas Melgarejo and Carlos Flores Quispe, Quechua speaking graduate students from Bolivia studying in the US will co-facilitate a workshop and practicum with Susan Kalt on South Bolivian Quechua at the Collaborative Language Research Institute at the University of Montana. We are excited about sharing this beautiful language and culture with Native American linguists, students and language activists during the monthlong institute.

Drawing by Casto Limachi

Tragic events of 2020 showed the world that racial and class inequities impoverish the lives of people of non-European descent in myriad ways. This is true in the Andes as well as the USA. Three members of our team (María del Carmen Bolívar, Gaby Vargas Melgarejo and Susan Kalt) worked closely with two community leaders from Ayllu Puka Puka (Julia Pachacopa Llacsa and Casto Limachi Kally) to discuss contested aspects of culture that have caused pain to those most identified with rural lifeways in Bolivia. We produced a paper together in Spanish and Quechua in hopes of publishing it in the Andes. Then Gaby and Susan presented the paper as part of the Massachusetts Community College annual Teaching, Learning and Student Development Conference in October. The theme of the conference was Employing an Anti-Racist Lens to Build Inclusive College Curriculum and Student Services, and the topic of our talk was Unity in Diversity. It was attended by faculty, staff and administrators from community colleges around Massachussetts.

Here is a reaction from one of the attendees:

“We’re all so rushed these days, but I want to say your TLSD presentation made a huge impression on me. You and your co-presenter talked about being at the heart of a significant and challenging dialogue between members of communities that had been impacted by colonialism in different ways. 

I was really touched when you two described how the members of the community that had preserved its traditions in ‘purer’ form … opened up their hearts to those whose celebration was more syncretic, in fact deeply changed by the influence of the colonizers…”