LACIS’ Director of Quechua, Dr. Armando Muyolema, Sworn in as Rector of Universidad Amawtay Wasi, Ecuador

by Vera Leone, LACIS MA-Dual Degree Student

On Friday, June 7, 2024, the indigenous peoples and nationalities of Ecuador held an inauguration ceremony for the new leaders of Universidad Amawtay Wasi, Ecuador’s public indigenous community university located in Quito. LACIS Director of Quechua, Dr. Armando Muyolema took office as rector of the university, beginning a five-year term in which his administration will focus on interculturalism, bilingual education, and indigenous research.

The symbolic ceremony included leaders from across Ecuador’s indigenous movement organizations, including CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador); ECUARUNARI (Confederation of Peoples of Kichwa Nationality); CONAICE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities and Peoples of the Ecuadorian Coast); and CONFENAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon). The outgoing university authorities were also present, including former Universidad Amawtay Wasi president Dr. Luis Fernando Garcés Velásquez.

In addition to Dr. Muyolema, Dr. Ana Cristina Benavides and Dr. Freddy Simbana, were also appointed to leadership positions — Dr. Benavides will serve as the Academic, Intercultural and Community Vice-Rector, and Dr. Simbana will serve as the Vice-Rector of Community Management, Research and Engagement with Society. Like Dr. Muyolema’s these are both five year appointments.

Universidad Amawtay Wasi dates back to 2004, and arose out of the struggles of Ecuadorian indigenous nationalities and peoples determined to have their own university with an intercultural approach. The symbolic inauguration held on June 7 at the House of Ecuadorian Culture in Quito marked a new chapter for the school, which offers programs including Law with a Legal Pluralism Approach; Language and Culture; Agro-ecology and Food Sovereignty; Rural, Sustainable, and Intercultural Tourism; Management of Child, Family and Community Development; Social, Community Economy with Solidarity; Community Communication and New Communication Technologies; Ancestral Knowledge in Intercultural and Community Nutrition; and Community Management of Water.

Dr. Muyolema, originally from the southern Ecuadorian Andes, studies education, Andean linguistics, and cultural anthropology. He obtained his masters in cultural studies at the Universidad Andina Simón Bolivar, and his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2007. He has taught at various universities within Ecuador and across Latin America, and currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on the intersection of critical social-linguistics, education, Andean epistemologies, cultural production and popular and indigenous movements in Latin America. Recent publications include Oralidades y Escrituras Kichwas (co-coordinated with Fernando Garcés Velásquez, 2022) and La Educación Intercultural Bilingüe en el Ecuador: Políticas Lingüísticas, Epistemologías Andinas e Interculturalidad (2022).

In his address, Dr. Muyolema emphasized the collective nature of the university, and that it was born of the hard work and perseverance of all present. “This is the dream of our fathers from long ago,” Dr. Muyolema said. “We are our parents’ dreams, and now we are walking forward.”

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