2010 Report

Field School – Students’ Reflections


We inaugurated the year with our first ever New Year’s session with an intersession seminar, that provided rich focus on herbal ecology and agricultural activities. Our May through August courses emphasized both Field Methods and Quechua Language practice and skills development in context. Undergraduate and graduate students participated from Mexico, Scotland, England, Canada and the US, with specialties in Linguistics, Social Work, Psychology, Latin American Studies, and Anthropology.

Andean Culture and Society

  • “Andean cosmovision is a beautiful perception of life. As Professors Martín and Cesar taught us, the concept of ‘control’ over nature simply cannot exist when one truly believes that humans are brothers and sisters with the rivers, flora and fauna. A belief system in which one is constantly thankful of Patsamama for all that she provides us…life, food, shelter, companionship…is a naturally sustainable system.”
  • “The notion of ‘crianza’ of the plants and chacras as an integral part of life and living and not just a labor of sustenance is very interesting to me. Prof. Martín explained to us as part of Quechua belief that there are no ‘things’ or ‘objects’ but rather, everything is alive, a part of creation and equal in importance and relevance.”
  • “I am in awe of Andean people’s relationship with and awareness of their environment. Their reverence for and egalitarian relationship with nature makes for incredible observation and comprehension abilities. They have a great capacity for not only knowing and remembering every detail of the natural environment, but also understanding how everything interacts together.”
  • “I found our conversations with Prof. Martín about issues of power in Quechua thought fascinating. The idea of truly only having horizontal relationships is very foreign to me.”
  • “One specific example of the social sustainability which I encountered here lies in the supportive nature of communities, exemplified in the everyday practice of consistently greeting one another in passing and exchanging words of care. Eye contact as well as physical contact convey not only the sincerity but also the deep connections expressed with these simple gestures.”
  • “Andean society is centered around relationships and reciprocity, the rural communities are extraordinarily close knit, as I discovered first hand. While visiting ceramicist, Sra. Agripina in Taricá, I found it fascinating how the community seemed to know so much about each other and appeared to care about their neighbors. People constantly share information with one another, whether it be about morals, news, health or gossip, and form very close bonds. This aspect is not only beautiful, but necessary for their well being and survival.”
  • “I found our conversations with Prof. Martín about issues of power in Quechua thought fascinating. The idea of truly only having horizontal relationships is very foreign to me.”
    I cannot count how many times people proudly told me, insistently, that each community has its own customs. Diversity is a source of pride. Diversity of culture is a valuable asset, just as diversity of crops in a field strengthens the species and land; a culture and local environment mirror each other in form and content.
  • “The diversity of the flora here is impressive and after walking just the close environs of the ranch with Don Pancho, it becomes more impressive as the utility of each plant was revealed; nearly all of the wild ‘weeds’ have some medicinal or practical value.”
  • “The agrobiodiversity of Peru is amazing and I have never ate so well in my life, but it could be easily destroyed by the push for genetically modified plants. It has come clear to me the need for awareness on issues of water rights, waste disposal, especially of plastics and non-biodegradables, and environmental degradation.”
  • “Prof. Martín explained to us the feeling and inner sense people share here. They know inside themselves when it will rain, but also they know how to ‘read’ the plants to predict rain.”
  • “Once I used a few words of Quechua with people or asked them about how to say something in Quechua it immediately broke down a barrier for communication. Even if the majority of my communication was in Spanish my attempt to speak and learn Quechua seemed to be noted as an attempt to learn about the people and their culture.”
  • “In spite of overwhelming attempts to destroy their culture, the Quechua people of Ancash have preserved a remarkable amount of their knowledge and language.”
  • “The language is a direct link for understanding the culture here and seems to act a window into the Andean worldview.”

Field Work

  • “Participatory Action Research methods led me to develop hands-on skills in acquiring knowledge and enhanced my overall experience here. The PAR method has been eye-opening and inspiring; I am particularly attracted to the integral social aspects of PAR and believe this method to be one of the most honest and inclusive ways to ‘do’ anthropology.”
  • “In the process of learning about PAR and the methods that go into it, I learned that the most important thing in order to make the relationships necessary to hold group discussions and interviews – there’s no way around it – than to just be assertive and get out and talk to people!”
  • “Through our activities with the schools, I learned that participation can be as simple as an ice breaker or asking someone’s opinion. Not only does this help people become familiar with our presence but with each others’ People are more willing to share their stories than I expected. Even though people here may be quiet and shy, they have the desire to share once they begin to feel comfortable. It can be difficult to know when it is appropriate to ask questions and what kind of questions to ask, but it got easier the more we practiced.”
  • “The youth group in Shumay blew us away with their herbal body map, even though we were already expecting their knowledge to far exceed ours when we arrived.”
  • “About 4 days into the program I suddenly had a revelation. In order to be able to talk to local people, I had to set aside my questionnaire and put forth my effort into becoming acquainted with the village and getting to know the people around me on a more personal and honest level; I needed to abandon my ‘perfect questions’ and let them know more about where I came from.”
  • “I’ve picked up a few techniques that are elegant in their simplicity – simple because they’re universal and don’t require a degree to learn and elegant because whatever our culture, all humans need companionship and support.”
  • “When interacting with children I will remember three things: they love games, art and singing. These activities helped us connect with the school kids in Cajamarquilla, Tuyu and Shumay. With adults, I will remember that offering help with chores demonstrates sincerity and often provides opportunities to build trust and converse about things most dear to us.”
  • “The social dynamic of our group was interesting. We were all strangers that immediately became a family, eating meals together and taking care of each other. Watching everyone with different backgrounds and personalities work together as a team was a really neat process to witness.”

The setting and environment

  • “Of all the environmental aspects that have made such an impression, perhaps the most subtle yet prevalent is the constant sound and presence of water – the sound of the constantly rushing water that flows in a seemingly never-ending torrent from the glaciers.”
  • “The hike with Prof. Martín to Pariacaca showed me how much Andeans know about their surroundings, from rocks, plants and rivers to the formation of glaciers and landslides.”
  • “Asking people about their environment and the cosmovisión andina made me realize that everything is connected, everything is in balance, and everything flows from one part of the world to another.”
  • “When speaking of reciprocity and the fragile state of the lives of Andean people, due to the uncertainty of natural disasters or environmental fluxes, it is important to understand the Andean concept that the ‘land’ is viewed as a direct link to god and the spiritual world.”
  • “The appreciation and respect the people have for their environment is displayed not only in the countless metaphors and poems, but in the morals and personal sentiments people share.”
  • “Being shown on the first day how our waste is used for the plants and then later the many different herbs that we use and that exist in our surroundings, I realize our coexistence with nature. The people I have spoken with here have a greater grasp of this point, evident form our first mapping project with the local primary school, who found the environment to be very important to them.”
  • “The land is relied upon to herd animals, grow crops and bless the beauty of the earth throughout the day. They even go as far as to spill a percentage of their alcohol they’re consuming in order to provide some of what they are drinking to the earth.”
  • “Everyone here is acutely aware of the receding ice caps as well as the changes in rain patterns. Climate change results in stress on the crops, bringing more potential for frost in the dry season and plagues in the rainy season.”
  • “Living on Pocha’s ranch has been an educational experience. I enjoyed learning about all the ways she has engineered her place to be low impact on the environment. I was most impressed by the sewage system for its effectiveness and simplicity.”
  • “The sun creeps up behind the mountain, Hualcan, and finally breaks over its peak at 7:20am every morning; after a day of intense heat, the clouds roll over the valley in the afternoon and the temperature drops. When a corporate mining company blasts a hole into the side of the mountain, they do the same to the body of the people who live here; and we all have one mother – Patsamama – to whom we owe our existence.”

Experiential learning

  • “I came her expecting to be explicitly taught, but instead the experience has been a kind of ‘secret learning’; It is at these ‘secret learning’ points that one is able to notice things and find ideas that may never have been discovered otherwise.”
  • “I am very grateful mainly for the knowledge I will take back home with me: local knowledge about what herbs to use when I am sick, methodological knowledge about how to carry out field work, and social knowledge about how to interact with those of a different culture, how to interact with other anthropologists of my own culture, and how to adjust myself so that I can get the best possible experience, no matter where I travel.
  • “I feel as if I have grown as a person to be more open and understanding. After my initial culture shock freakout over seeing a cuy skinned, I ate cuy at the fiesta because I knew it is considered a delicacy and would be rude to refuse.”
  • “I learned about a people and culture which embraces and celebrates every aspect of life and communities that center their lives around personal interactions with those around them. I learned about chicha and reciprocity, of Huayco and La Casa de Pocha, of the land and its beauty, and of the importance of the practice of anthropology.”


Photo gallery


2010 Field School – Students’ Reflections
Andean Culture and Society | more…

Valerie Mocker Valerie Mocker – Shaqshas | more…

Michelle Pienknagura Michelle Pienknagura – Letter | more…

Posted on: September 22, 2017admin

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