International Service Learning- Peru 2017

The What:

We are embarking on the fifth year that the Peru Service Learning and Spanish Immersion Program will run from Binghamton University. Sustainability in an Era of Globalization: History, Culture, and Literature of the Andes is an international service-learning course that introduces students to the history, culture, and literature of the Andean region in Latin America. Students learn about issues such as bilingual education, social equity, tourism and sustainability, and cultural identity. Moreover, students connect what they read and write about with a service 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 organizatio ns around Cuzco. The course was led by Professors Susan Appe and Nadia Rubai (Public Administration) for three years, and I am happy to return to Peru and lead the group for my second time along with graduate student co-director, Odilka Santiago (PhD Candidate Sociology).

Prior to the end of the semester (hard to believe), the group  of 14 students met for three Saturday sessions where we learned about the history of Peru through the works of writers from the colonial period such as El Inca Garcilaso De La Vega  and Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala (see image below), 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 issue briefs on a variety of themes prevalent in contemporary Peruvian society on topics ranging from Bilingual Education, Sustainable Tourism, Women’s Rights in Peru, and Asian-Peruvian Gastronomy. Students have also started submitted their ideas for final papers, some of which will involve on-the ground work in Peru.


In Cuzco students will study Spanish, and advanced Spanish speakers will have the chance to take Quechua classes (I am particularly excited about this). Quechua  is an indigenous language spoken by some 8-10 million people in the Andes. If you would like to listen to music from a popular singer who sings in Quechua- check out the music of singer/actress Magaly Solier. We actually watched Claudia Llosa’s film La teta asustada (The Milk of Sorrow), in which Solier stars ,when we discussed fictional depictions of trauma from the Shining Path years.

So What:

It is hard to believe that we are about to embark on our three week service-learning component to Cuzco, Peru! We have a fantastic group of 14 students majoring in Computer Science, Spanish, Human Development, as well as MPA graduate students who are packing their bags this week. Over our three weeks 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. We 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. In 2016 we repurposed a small building to be used for a library program in the community of Huaynapata. This year we will be helping out with some remodeling projects as the main organization is in a new building.

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 and 2016, 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. 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. In 2016, we conducted a major construction project for comedor San Martín de Porres. We are excited to continue work with our service coordinator Marlyn on a comedor in alto Cuzco.

Now What?

I just returned from the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) meeting in Lima two weeks ago and am eager to return to Cusco this weekend. At the LASA meeting, I attended a benefit concert for Latin American scholars. Peruvian stars such as Peru Negro, Cecilia Bracamonte, Magaly Solier, and Bareto performed a varied program that showed how unique the music of each region of Peru is. I spoke with taxi drivers about ratings for current president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and the intense storms and mud slides that had plagued Peru in the last year. Mining, resource extraction, and climate change are some of the most important issues facing Peru today. I attended talks on colonial art, indigenismo and José Carlos Mariátegui, heard from graphic artists such as Juan Acevedo Fernández de Paredes, a cartoonist who publishes the popular “El Cuy” strip, and the multi-talented artist Sheila Alvarado, who turned Daniel Alarcon’s City of Clowns into a graphic novel (You can read more about it here ). Together they discussed the art of “illustration” in Peru and difficulties for women in the industry.

The success of women and children in Peru, the US, and the world is of utmost importance. I am eager to return to Cuzco and continue to learn from and work with our amazing service partners. I am eager to introduce a group of students to Peruvian culture and to continue critical conversations about global citizenship and to reflect on our experiences. I am excited to see students develop their Spanish and Quechua speaking skills and hope they will learn to say Tupinanchiskama which in Quechua is, not truly a  “goodbye,” but holds a promise of a future meeting. As such I say to you now Tupinanchiskama.


Giovanna Montenegro, PhD

Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature & Spanish

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