Monthly Archives: February 2016

¡O Cochabamba Querida!

I’m back in the city that became my second home 40 years ago. Not only that, but for a few days I’ve been in the same household that I’ve visited so many times.

I came back expecting to feel the absence of Jaime Goytia, who passed away a year ago, but I haven’t felt it here in his house. It still seems he could walk in the door at any moment. I feel warmly embraced and surrounded by his playful spirit, his unmatched generosity and hospitality and his extraordinary sense of service. All of these qualities remain among the people he left behind: his life partner Marina, his adult children and grandchildren who came to pick me up at the airport, and even a new crop of tiny great grandchildren, one of whom (Leo, age 2) lives in the little cabin behind the main house.

Next week I’ll move to a rented room closer to the university, but this week it has been great to spend time with the Goytia family, the folks whose warmth and point of view I’ve returned to time and again throughout my life.

Today it was Marina’s 88th birthday and the house was filled with family (about 25 people strong). We ate picante mixto (tongue and chicken with chuños – dehydrated potatoes – and hot pepper sauce, rice and regular boiled potatoes as well as rice, tomato and onion salad.) The phone started ringing with congratulations starting at 9 am and didn’t let up until the night. Right now (11 pm) there is a karaoke party starting downstairs and I’d better go join in!!!!!!!

Landed in Lima

I started my Andean journey in the huge city of Lima, Peru at dawn on Monday, Feb. 1.

Lima sits on a long, narrow strip of coastal desert that is bursting with archaeological remains and modern energy. I immediately felt the thrill of being surrounded by the Spanish language and the hustle of limeños on their way to work in the morning.

Enjoyed conversing with the taxi driver from the airport – he told me that he doesn’t speak Quechua but that its most beautiful variety is spoken in his hometown of Ayacucho. I told him I’d love to go there someday since I’ve heard their beautiful music for years.

My purpose in making this trip is to spend three months working with Andean partners on the documentation and revitalization of the Quechua language.  I plan to work in three places: Cochabamba, Cusco and Chuquisaca.

Before undertaking fieldwork you have to ask permission from various authorities and making sure that your plans maximize benefit and minimize risk for the vulnerable communities you plan to visit.

That’s why I spent my first afternoon in Lima meeting with Gisela Fernandez at the Pontificia Universidad Católica of Peru. She’s the head of the new ethics committee, and they must review and approve all of their own faculty’s research projects. My connection to the PUCP is through one of my work partners, a graduate of PUCP and former faculty member there. To take a quick virtual tour of this cool campus, click here.

It was an honor to spend the afternoon with Gisela and meet some of her co-workers. She’s really sharp – a lawyer who spent the first part of her career specializing in advocating for victims of sexual violence during the 1980s. In the course of walking around campus, she took me to see the remains of the Inca Road which was recently uncovered. I was also really impressed with the architecture students’ structures which are on display right outside her office. The perfect combination of old and new that characterizes this place.