Annie Bacher – Argentina
This summer, I spent six weeks during the months of June and July in Buenos Aires, Argentina, researching with the goal of answering the question “What is the Nuevo Circo movement in Buenos Aires?” in order to write my Senior Honors Thesis in Latin American Studies. My main objectives were to meet various members of the circus world in Buenos Aires, and to explore what exactly is meant by “Contemporary Circus” in Argentina. I spent my time interviewing circus professionals in the city in various positions, including owners of circus schools, performers, and teachers of the circus arts. Among them were Jorge and Oscar Videla, founders of the Escuela de Circo Criolla in Buenos Aires, the first circus school in South America and the second in all of Latin America. On the other end of the spectrum, I interviewed a duo acrobatics teacher and former street circus performer at the Centro Cultural Trivenchi, a cooperative cultural center dedicated to making the circus arts available to all, and keeping young people off the streets.
Additionally, with my free time, I took aerial silks and acrobatics classes in some of the circus schools where I was interviewing. Overall, it was an incredible experience, both in terms of improving my Spanish, gaining contacts across the circus world of Buenos Aires, and further exploring my topic and preparing to research and write my thesis. I am extremely grateful to the Latin American Studies Program and the Walker Foundation for this opportunity, and the support I received from my professors Luis Millones and Ben Fallaw, before and during my time in Argentina. I couldn’t have done this without them.
Marguerite Paterson – Chile
Thanks to the generous support of the Walker Grant, I was able to travel to Santiago, Chile in October to present research I’d been working on with a group of Chilean students at a day-long conference at Pontificia Universidad Católica. I was studying teacher hiring practices in Santiago as part of a project at the university that was started to create task forces of undergraduate students to research topics related to the country’s most pressing problems (among which was the education crisis), and to develop public policy proposals as a result of that research. I started the project during my second semester abroad in Chile and then spent several months at home working with my group via Skype, so it was very rewarding to be able to participate in the final conference, which was really the culmination of the project. Because of my Walker Grant, I was able to participate in presenting our research and recommendations to professionals and government officials in the field of education and receive feedback from them. Being able to work in-person with my group throughout the week made preparing our presentation and working to finish our papers much more manageable, and it was great to be able to see all of the other presentations and go to a celebratory final dinner at our professor’s house. I also had the opportunity to spend time with my host family and the friends I made during my year in Chile, which was an added bonus.
Ellicott Dandy – Ecuador
This January, I had a wonderful opportunity to spend nearly a month in Ecuador, conducting research for my honors thesis in anthropology. My thesis spotlights a collection of communities in the subtropical Andean cloud forest, where the proposal of an open-pit copper mine sparked local resistance in the mid-1990s. Nearly twenty years after the arrival of the first mining company, the incredibly bio-diverse area remains intact, but as a result of the conflict, much has changed—in many ways, for the better. My research focuses on the shared identity locals have constructed through their collective efforts toward environmental protection and sustainability, owing to a new valuation of their natural resources following the threat of their loss. I take particular interest in the ways in which women have gained status through their emergence as some of the strongest and most visible leaders in the fight to protect the area.
I returned to the area, known as Íntag, for several weeks in January, and lived with a host family. I interviewed people about their experiences in protesting the mining project and in participating in grassroots alternative development initiatives that are characterized primarily by environmental sustainability. Although I had spent a month in the area during my semester abroad last spring, I found that returning to Íntag deeply enriched my experience and my research. In addition to the new insights I gained and the friendships I made, I learned about the process of anthropological fieldwork by doing it. I am so grateful to the Walker Committee and the Latin American Studies program for granting me the unique and invaluable opportunity to conduct original research in this capacity as an undergraduate.
Becky Newman – Brazil
Returning to Brazil was truly unforgettable. Living in Florianopolis, a state capital situated on an island in the southern state of Santa Catarina, allowed me to see a part of a vast country starkly different from the city of Fortaleza, where I studied abroad last spring. The similarities between the two extend not far beyond lowest common denominators like Sunday churrasco, caipirinhas, sandy beaches, and the Portuguese language. Locals accredit the historical legacy of German and Italian immigrants during the World War II era to Santa Catarina for the region’s relative development compared to the rest of the country, and the city itself attracts tourists from all over the world. Although more than eighty percent of the land there is preserved from development, building plans for national conference centers and hotels evidence the city’s (and, the country’s) rampant growth. Uniquely, the problems plaguing other urban centers of Brazil are isolated from Floripa due to the island’s geography, with issues like overcrowding, insufficient housing, drug use and crime found mainly in the neighboring continental city of San Jose. The opportunity to travel and improve language skills is truly a precious one, and the value of language and cultural immersion is immeasurable. Floripa is an incredible place and I am so thankful for the opportunity to study there.
Abbott Matthews – Colombia
This past January, I was able to travel to Bogotá, Colombia and spend nearly a month conducting fieldwork for my senior honors thesis in Latin American Studies. My research analyzes the use of political graffiti at la Universidad Nacional in Bogotá by alternative, and mainly leftist, parties. The graffiti that covers every white wall at the university nearly always has a political slogan or message that cleverly seeks to critique something about the current political system. Since the 1991 Constitution was ratified in Colombia, there have been attempts at restructuring the way that political parties are able to engage in campaigns and elections. As a result of several of these reforms, their relative success and failure, and the perpetual political violence in Colombia’s history, alternative “third” parties, movements, and/or associations are increasingly taking to the walls to express their frustrations. Ultimately, I believe that political graffiti is a great lens through which Colombia’s political system can be critiqued. Bogotá was truly a special experience and solidified my passion for Latin American politics. I’m looking forward to presenting the final product to the department!
Colby Volunteer Center’s Alternative Spring Break – Nicaragua
Over Spring Break, a group of ten Colby students with an eclectic mix of class years, majors and backgrounds traveled to Nicaragua through the CVC’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program, largely due to the support of the Latin American Studies Department and Walker grants. The group spent the week building the foundation of a small school in a small rural community called Las Cebitas, about 45 minutes outside of the capital of Managua. After helping local masons by digging six-foot holes, mixing dozens of loads of concrete, and bending countless meters of rebar, the group had the opportunity to visit Nicaraguan historical sites including the former national palace, the Sandino memorial, and Coyotepe, a 19th century fortress used as political prison and torture chamber by the Somoza regime up until the early 1980’s. Even more than volunteering their time and learning about the history and culture of the beautiful Central American nation, the group enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the people of Las Cebitas by working side-by-side the masons and playing with their kids. Each and every Colby student on the trip was profoundly impacted by the experience and (reluctantly) left Nicaragua with a new understanding of both the culture and people of the area and the global processes of inequality and service.
The journey to Las Cebitas, however, began long before the group departed Mayflower Hill towards Logan. The group has been engaged in educational seminars led by Colby Professors, including LAS Professors Ryan Jones and Saul Sandoval Perea, in order to be better prepared to reflect on their experience in Nicaragua. In addition, one of the goals of ASB is to offer the experience to all Colby students regardless of their socio-economic situation. The CVC is able to do this principally through the Goldfarb Center ASB Financial Aid Initiative, and with strong support from the Latin-American Studies Department , Student Government Association, Campus Life and the Casey Feldman Foundation. The group raised their remaining fee through bottle drives and coat checks on campus and through various off-campus donors. The trip would not have been possible without the contributions of these parties, and the participants are incredibly grateful for this support.
If you would like to learn more about Alternative Spring Break and how to get involved, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.