Bridging Learning and Doing: Colorado Quechua Cultural Outreach/ Peruvian Sheepherder Project

By: Alison Krögel, Associate Professor, Andean Literary and Cultural Studies; Department of Spanish Language, Literary & Cultural Studies (SLLCS)

Since 2013, I have collaborated with various organizations on issues related to Peruvian sheepherders who work in remote regions of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West under the auspices of the H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa program. Until the 2021 Winter quarter, I had only indirectly integrated this aspect of my research and service into my Andean Studies courses at DU. I found, however, that as the months of physical distancing and myriad of stresses related to the pandemic continued to accumulate, my students felt just as overwhelmed by isolation as I did. So, I started to think about how I could integrate more aspects of human connection and community-engaged learning into my courses.

In December 2020, I enrolled in the 3-day CCESL Community Engaged Teaching 101 workshop. Through the workshop, I realized that community-engaged learning didn’t have to always involve in-person, weekly service projects at specific, local locations in order to be meaningful, impactful, and to enhance student learning while also providing reciprocal benefits to community partners. Consequently, I established several new projects in collaboration with the Peruvian/Quechua speaking community of Colorado, the Peruvian Consulate in Denver, and with a global community partner at a university in Cusco (Universidad Nacional San Antonio Abad del Cusco, UNSAAC). In consultation with these partners and several sheepherder contacts working in Colorado and Wyoming, we designed several related and scaffolded projects to be integrated into two Andean Studies courses taught in the Department of Spanish Language Literary & Cultural Studies.

During the 2021 Winter quarter, students in the “Introduction to Quechua Language & Culture” course curated playlists of Spanish, Quechua, and English language news, culture, and language learning podcasts, as well as music selections. CCESL mini-grant funding allowed us to purchase mp3 players which were preloaded with these audio recordings and e-books for distribution to sheepherders working in remote areas and without access to a smartphone. We also created “anthologies” of selected short stories and Andean cultural readings in Quechua and Spanish —provided to us by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture — and used CCESL funds to purchase English language study materials, as requested by the herders. These materials were mailed to sheepherders throughout the state. Other student groups designed infographic projects describing digital, opensource Quechua language and cultural resources which were published on the website of our community partner, the Peruvian Consulate of Denver. In the future, these materials will be distributed by the Consulate in Denver at Rocky Mountain regional Peruvian community events, and shared with Denver-area NGOS who frequently work with sheepherders or other clients who speak Andean/Quechua-inflected Spanish.

During the 2021 Spring quarter, students in an advanced Spanish “Andean World” course used their knowledge of contemporary Andean environmental, literary, and cultural issues and texts to create a portfolio of prepared activities. These included PowerPoints, class readings, and homework assignments related to one or more Quechua poems featured on the digital platform Musuq Illa, a Quechua poetry collective. These activity portfolios are designed to be used by elementary, middle, and high school teachers in the Andes and beyond who wish to integrate lessons on Quechua language poetry into their classrooms. The themes for the class lessons developed by DU students were chosen in collaboration with professors of Andean Literature and Education at the UNSAAC university in Cusco. 

Surveys of students who have taken these courses reveal that these community-engaged assignments have motivated students during a particularly difficult time in their educational journey, since they know that their scholarly work will support the Peruvian community of the Rocky Mountain West and help to support Quechua and Andean Studies for years to come.

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