Students, faculty embark on study abroad trip to Peru

The What:

We are about to embark on the fourth year that the Peru Service Learning and Spanish Immersion Program will run from Binghamton University. The study-abroad, service-learning component is titled Sustainability in an Era of Globalization: History, Culture, and Literature of the Andes.

This course provides an opportunity for students of diverse backgrounds and interests to learn about the history, culture, and literature of the Andean region in Latin America at the same time that it allows them to learn about the issues raised by readings concerned with environmental justice, indigenous rights, bilingual education, social equity, sustainability, and cultural identity. Moreover, students connect these issues in their readings with a service learning component that allows them to reflect upon international service and global citizenship. The Peru Program is a collaboration between the Office of International Programs, the Department of Public Administration in CCPA, the Center for Civic Engagement, an accredited on-site language school in Cuzco (Máximo Nivel), as well as three service partner organizations around Cuzco. The course has been led by Public AdministrTION Professors Susan Appe and Nadia Rubaii for the last three years, and I am happy to lead this year’s group along with MPA-MSW graduate student co-director, Carolina Garcia, an alumna of last year’s program.

blog 2.pngPrior to the end of the spring semester, the group met for three intensive Saturday sessions where we learned about the history of Peru through the works of colonial writers such as El Inca Garcilaso De La Vega and Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala debated recent conflicts surrounding post-conflict Peru in the aftermath of the Shining Path Years, and discussed the ethics of service learning and short-term study abroad projects. Students presented briefs on a variety of issues prevalent in contemporary Peruvian society in topics ranging from Education, climate change, tourism, gastronomy, poverty, elections, as well as Afro-Peruvian, Asian-Peruvian, and GLBT communities. Students have also started thinking about their final papers and they have begun to reflect on ways through which their service in Peru combined with their academic experience at Binghamton will impact their future careers.

In Cuzco, Peru students will study Spanish, and advanced Spanish speakers will have the chance to take Quechua classes thereby gaining an opportunity to further communicate with indigenous interlocutors. Students will therefore be able to reflect upon issues that affect these communities such as bilingual education, cultural identity, sustainable development and tourism, etc. Quechua is an indigenous language spoken by some eight to ten million people in the Andes (if you would like to groove with a bit of Quechua – check out the Michael Jackson covers sung in Quechua by teenage Peruvian star Renata Flores who has revived popular manifestations of the language.

So What:

It is hard to believe that we are about to embark on our three-week service-learning component to Cuzco (also spelled Cusco), Peru! We have a fantastic group of 17 students. That includes undergraduates from various majors such as Spanish, Anthropology, and Human Development as well as MPA and MSW graduate students who are packing their bags as we speak. Over our time in Peru you will hear from the CCPA graduate students who will have a chance to reflect upon their experiences, think about what they bring in to the service sites, and what they learn about public service and ISL in general.

blog 1We are very excited to continue to work with our three service-learning partners :

AbrePuertas (OpenDoors), was started by a SUNY alumna and is situated in the district of Coya, Peru, in the Sacred Valley outside of the city of Cuzco. The organization works to improve community literacy, empower teens through leadership and public speaking trainings, engage families who may undervalue traditional education, and bolster the value of learning and art. In 2014, Binghamton students helped to redesign a youth room through painting and clean up and catalogued library books into the organization’s library system. In 2015, faculty and students sanded, painted, and labeled shelving units for the common space at AbrePuertas. They created a reading space for younger children. In addition, they ran a mini-AbrePuertas Olympics with the kids, which included activities such as relays, chess, and hopscotch. This year we have work to do in the repurposing of a small building used for a library program in the community of Huaynapata.

Corazón De Dahlia

In 2014, faculty and students were integrated in the Corazón de Dahlia after school program, helping with homework. In addition, outdoor activities were planned by Binghamton University students such as soccer and volleyball games as well as hot potatoes and other group games for all ages and levels. In 2015, faculty and students were again integrated in the Corazón de Dahlia after school program, helping with homework. In addition, outdoor activities were planned including a town scavenger hunt for all ages and levels. Students also spent time on a new empowerment program for girls. In conversation with the organization, students have already planned an array of collaborative workshops to implement while we are at Corazón De Dahlia.

Municipality of Cuzco (for work with the Comedores Populares). The Municipality of Cuzco, our third service partner organization, facilitates our work with a network of soup kitchens: Comedores Populares. The Comedores Populares are run by local women and provides a source of food for families who would otherwise lack an adequate food supply. In 2014 faculty and students tore down a dilapidated adobe building which served as the kitchen for the Comedor Popular and rebuilt it out of ceramic bricks. In 2015, at a new Comedor, faculty and students built wooden tables used to serve lunches. Students also painted the inside and outside of the Comedor. We are very excited to continue our work with the Comedores this year.

Now What?

I took a break from attending this year’s Latin American Studies Association (LASA) to compose this blog entry. This weekend I listened to great talks on forms of indigenous resistance in art and literature of Peru in the colonial era, “testimonio” and the aftermath of the Shining Path era, as well as Chinese medicine in Lima. I attended the Gran Baile (Official Conference Dance) where a group of Peruvian scholars protested against the return of Fujimorismo and Keiko Fujimori’s impeding presidential victory in Peru on the June 5 run off.[1] We will be arriving in Peru at a very critical moment and our students will surely reflect on political participation in Peru (where voting is compulsory) vs. the United States. As a teacher of Comparative Literature and Spanish, a scholar of Colonial Latin America, and a learner of Quechua, it is important for myself as well as our team to consider the intersection between learning about a culture’s history, language, and politics and to integrate it within an ISL model. I believe that in our last class sessions we have truly begun fruitful discussions concerning issues surrounding OUR communities in the U.S. as well as those that we may visit in Peru. I know this process of reflection will be invaluable for those of our students who may continue work in education, public service, social work, and international development. While there is no perfect “Global Citizen,” students may ponder how they can serve their communities with a global mindset and remain connected to the important work being done in Peru by our partner organizations. Moreover, upon return, students can continue to be engaged with our partner organizations by fundraising, participating in social media, informing their peers, families, and employers about Peru, and by (hopefully ) continuing to return to Peru and the region.

Giovanna Montenegro

Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Spanish

[1] For more on Keiko’s father, Alberto Fujimori and the legacy of his policies, see

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