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Indigenous Women From Saraguro, Ecuador visit UMD and Duluth

Ana and Petrona in front of large class
September 15, 2017

The best way to learn about culture in its many forms is to immerse yourself in a culture different than the one you live in every day.

That’s exactly what two members of the indigenous Saraguro, Ecuador, community did in September when they came to Duluth to visit several classes as well as with indigenous bead artists at the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO).


Ana Victoria Sarango and Petrona Guaillas visited the courses: Cultural Anthropology (taught by David Syring), Women in Cross Cultural Perspective (taught by Jennifer Jones) and Culture Industry and Creative Economy ( a Cultural Entrepreneurship course taught by Stephanie Raible). In each class, the women shared stories and insights into their lives as women, artists and community leaders. The spirited exchanges with students led to useful learning for students.


Spanish language major, Katie Haus, provided capable translation support for the women. The women also offered an open house to UMD faculty and staff to view and purchase examples of their beautiful beadwork jewelry.


Dr. David Syring has worked with the Saraguro community for twelve years, conducting regular fieldwork in Ecuador, and helping the women’s cooperative known as La Cooperativa de Las Mujeres de Teresa de Calcuta to bring their knowledge and their beadwork to Duluth. In 2014 he published With the Saraguros: The Blended Life in a Transnational World (University of Texas Press) about his research. On David’s Youtube channel you will find many examples of digital stories, participatory media and documentary shorts from his work with the community.


For the past two years, UMD has invited women from the cooperative to visit Duluth. Thanks to CLA Dean Susan Maher and Director of the UMD Office of Cultural Diversity Susana Pelayo-Woodward for the invitation. AICHO also provided a letter of invitation for the women to receive travel visas to visit.


The Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Criminology provided funding support for the women’s food and lodging and travel, as well as an honorarium for their visit.

For more information about the visit, or future visits by Saraguro artisans to UMD, please contact David (

UMD Students and our visitors from Saraguro, Ecuador visit the public mural on the side of the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO). The mural is the first indigenous created public art in the Twin Ports. Pictured (from left): Johanna Peterson, Ana Victoria Sarango, Makyah Amundson, Petrona Guaillas, Isabel Rossi, and AICHO staff member Moira Villiard. (Photo by David Syring)