Department of World Languages and and Cultures faculty organize events for indigenous resistance in Latin America

The three webinars held during April covered a variety of topics.

During the spring semester, faculty members in the Department of World Languages and Cultures organized a series of initiative events for Indigenous Resistance in Latin America. The events, organized by Juan Leal Ugalde, Pablo Celis-Castillo and Federico Pous,  included three webinars that took place in April, and ended with a photography exhibit held in Carlton Commons.

The first webinar “Siwar Mayu, A river of hummingbirds” was led by writer and poet Juan Sánchez, who works for the online multilingual publication The Siwar Mayu Project. The words “Siwar” and “Mayu” in the native Quechua language translate into “hummingbird and river”, symbolizing how The Siwar Mayu Project works to share the messages of the ancestors and cross the borders of language.

During the webinar, Sánchez shared pieces of poetry and art from indigenous writers and artists, and he also describes how the project creates a space for indigenous creators to collaborate through dialogue, art, poetry, short stories, oral histories, and more. Instead of immediately translating the indigenous works into languages such as English, Spanish, Portuguese and French, Siwar Mayu includes the works in their native language, and in some cases, will translate them from their original indigenous language in hopes to keep original poetics and epistemologies alive. Visit to learn more about the project.

The second webinar, “Human Rights after the Colombian Peace Accords’,’ was led by Yohana Milena Castaño and Santiago Salinas, members of the People’s Congress (Congreso de los Pueblos) and was supported by the U.S. organization Witness for Peace Southeast. Formed in 2010, the People’s Congress works to create an intersectional, unified front against environmental destruction, war, and violence that harms marginalized communities in Colombia.

Since the 2016 Colombian Peace Accords intended to end the armed conflict that has been occurring in the country, the People’s Congress has played a crucial role in Colombian politics by supporting indigenous communities to defend their rights for life, land, and self-determination while violence in the country still increases. Colombia is experiencing a critical situation, where more than 300 human rights and environmental activists were assassinated in 2019, and important groups such as the People’s Congress are necessary for finding solutions to the violence that negatively impacts indigenous and marginalized communities.

The third and final webinar, “¡Turpü gelayay konkülenaliyiñ iñchiñ! / Never again without us!,” was led by Antonio Catrileo and Manuel Carrión, who are two spiritual and queer members of the Mapuche community. The Mapuche are an indigenous community that lives in the Southern and Central parts of Chile and Argentina, and oftentimes they face misrecognition, violence from the Chilean government and territorial displacement from corporations seeking to extract natural resources.

Catrileo and Carrión use poetry and art as a way to raise awareness and elevate the voices of the Mapuche, and also to share the experiences of queer members of the community. They use “Affectionate conversation”, or Poyewün nütramkan, and the art of weaving to build relationships and have open and honest conversations with others who can emphasize with the queer Mapuche experience. The act of weaving is both artistic and symbolic, as it represents weaving together knowledge and experience and sharing this with those involved in Poyewün nütramkan. The practice of “weaving knowledge sharing”, or trafkin kimün witral, helps to breed normativity of queerness and spirituality in the Mapuche community.

In “Never again without us!”, Catrileo and Carrión brought attention to the Mapuche artists whose work sheds light on the complex relationship between indigenous visibility and colonial violence. “We don’t forget” (Ngoymalayiñ, No olvidamos) is a part of the project that cultivates memories of indigenous treatment and colonial state violence through audiovisual archives.

The photo exhibit in Carlton Commons is titled “Defending Truth and Memory: The Path Towards Justice in Guatemala” and consists of 12 photographs, many of which were taken by the Mayan-Kaqchikel photographer Roderico Y. Díaz. The exhibit continues the conversation of indigenous resistance as it focuses on the question of historical truth and the pursuit of justice and reparations for the indigenous population that suffered the genocide during the Guatemalan Civil War. The photographs allow viewers to learn more about the Mayan people’s recent struggles for justice, and also encourage viewers to reflect on how photography plays a crucial role in remembering the past.