The art and practice of exchange.
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Pachaysana: Decolonial Education

El Trueque: exchanging our humanity

Much of Pachaysana’s work focuses on what is typically referred to as an exchange, especially cultural exchange. But what really is cultural exchange? What is its aim and its impact? Certainly, there is little else that so effectively defines our humanity. Nevertheless, for some reason the phrase feels cheapened, or perhaps commodified. Although globalization has increased its potential, it has also co-opted its purpose. In too many examples, the beneficiaries are not the exchange participants; rather, they are those who sell services or products related to the exchange.

At Pachaysana, exchange means trueque, a Spanish word that in Ecuador represents an age-old tradition of balanced trade, in which the “I give you” and “you give me” of basic economics has deeper significance. For example, “I offer you, the traveler, a place to sleep for the night” and “you tell me stories of your home” is a trueque of services and values that can only be measured by the very essence of our humanity.

Pachaysana Blog

Rehearsing Change is “El Trueque”

The name of our study abroad program in Spanish is El Trueque: Empoderamiento Local, Educación Global, in which the lives of our participants are similar to the example provided above. A temporary home in one community is exchanged for stories from another, phrases in Kichwa are exchanged, via Spanish, for phrases in English, and dreams for a better world are exchanged with, well, different dreams for a better world.  In its grassroots application, global education is exchanged with local empowerment, and back again. (The image shows us practicing trueque during a celebratory meal in Quito.)

Rehearsing Change is Fair Trade Study Abroad

The trueque with nature

It is now widely accepted that climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity, and while we agree with the science, Pachaysana suggests a rethinking of the issue. Instead of “facing climate change,” we should focus on “creating a climate exchange,” engaging in a real and meaningful trueque with the natural world. Last week, our Rehearsing Change participants visited the Tiputini Biodiversity Station (operated by our partner, the Universidad San Francisco de Quito) and instead of thinking about conservation, we explored how our relationship with nature must transform into a single living community. Our students and community participants concluded that if we ever hope to conserve the rainforest, then we must first see our very identities reflected and re-created within it. (Images from contaminated zones of the Ecuadorian Amazon and our host community, Mariscal.)
Pachaysana Position Announcement


We recently completed our first experience with our Guest Faculty program. Dr. Adrienne Falcon, sociologist from Carleton College, taught the first half of our course “Identity and Place” in the community of Mariscal. (Read her short blog post just before entering the community.) This was not a case of contracting a first rate professor from abroad to teach a class and then watch her return to the United States; rather, this was trueque at its best. Adrienne, indeed an instructor of the highest degree, joined us with her entire family (husband David and daughters Celine and Clara) to engage in one of the most authentic exchanges we have ever witnessed. We observed the program participants produce children’s books on the community’s identity (Adrienne’s brilliant assignment), while her daughters played vigorously with their host sisters in the town square, all of whom became friends, family and community. At that precise moment, one could look around and perceive that the world was changing, if even just slightly, for the better.  (Images of Adrienne teaching and later leading final presentations. Stay tuned for her post-experience blog post.)   
Pachaysana Position Announcement

Last days to apply for ”El Trueque”

Check out and share our recent video, which gives insight to what current students think of Rehearsing Change. Spread the word! There is still space for the fall 2016 semester to be held in Quito, where international students will study with members of an urban arts collective, local activists and educators, as well as a nearby rural community struggling to adapt in a globalized world. Please see our webpage for information or write us with inquiries. Last day to apply is April 15! (Image of our latest Quito-based program cohort.)
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