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‘Sumak Kawsay: Andean Wisdom for Living in Harmony with the Earth’

On Thursday, April 7, Sara Lowden, a Ph.D. anthropology and environmental policy student, and Elizabeth Pellecer Rivera, a graduate ecology and environmental sciences student, hosted a Zoom lecture for staff and students titled, “Sumak Kawsay: Andean Wisdom for Living in Harmony with the Earth.” Rivera is fluent in both English and Spanish and helped translate the talk to those watching from Quito, Ecuador.

“Tonight we’ll be talking about Kichwa traditional knowledge,” Lowden said. “The ILADES Institute (Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Estudios Sociales “Los Andes”) offers the Ancestral Knowledges and Sciences program, which is one of the only programs of its kind, not only in Ecuador, but the entire South American region. The program aims to generate alternative spaces so that traditional knowledge continues to be transmitted from generation to generation, and to promote a new vision that respects plurinationality.” 

There were three guest speakers introduced throughout the lecture: Maria Cecelia Nuala Mullo, Pascual Yepez and Michelle Castro. All three are acquaintances Lowden made throughout her research, and she went on to explain how she came into contact with the guest speakers from South America.

“I met Pascual, one of our esteemed speakers, about ten years ago on my first trip to Ecuador,” Lowden said. “I was visiting the archives of FLACSO University in Quito, and as I was leaving he said hello. We struck up an easy conversation, discovered our common interests in cultural anthropology and environmental justice. During the same visit, he introduced me to Cecilia, and we’ve been friends since. I’ve learned so much from both Ceci and Pascual, and I’m honored to have them here to share with you tonight.”

Mullo, or Ceci as her colleagues like to call her, has over two decades worth of experience working with her community’s youth and churches. Along with being well versed in business and accounting, she has been a tremendous asset to her people in the development of the Andean area. She gave a presentation about the people of the Andes living in harmony with mother earth. 

Casto is a student in the Ancestral Wisdom and Sciences program at ILADES. Casto, along with another young woman, played a drum and sang a short song about the natural world inspired by their country. 

Yepez explained how his people prioritize maintaining a healthy, balanced and organic diet. He talked about how it is important that his people are connected to the earth, which means they don’t eat canned or processed foods. It’s important to their culture to keep a clean diet, so that they may connect with the animals, the moon and their souls. 

Yepez also taught the viewers a new word: “Minka,” which means working together. The people of Ecuador pride themselves on community, and many live by a mantra.

“Cook, celebrate, work together,” Yepez said. “Not just family, everyone.” 

Yepez mentioned, though, that this kind of caring lifestyle isn’t shared by all. When he traveled out of the Andes mountain range, he noticed that his people were discriminated against by other Ecuadoreans. 

“We all come from the same people, we must set our differences aside to live in harmony,” Yepez said. 

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