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After a week of intense travel in Ecuador from the south of Guayaquil to the north of Imbabura, we finally made it to Cotacachi, located on the slopes of Cotacachi volcano in the eastern Andes. Cotacachi has a completely unique atmosphere full of art, music, and peace. Here people have maintained their native language, Kichwa, which in other areas of Ecuador is being forgotten. Arriving at the last stop in the center of the town, we found ourselves searching for a bus to San Pedro, a rural village outside of Cotacachi, later to be told that there was no transport available. 

We ended up taking a 10-minute taxi ride up a steep cobblestone hill, where the driver dropped us off at the entrance of San Pedro near an empty soccer playground. The wind was crisp but the sun kept us strong. A young boy bundled with a toque and wool sweater approached us and led us to a house where Ñusta Sanchez, one of the Cultural Survival Community Media Youth Fellows, was facilitating a workshop. Entering the home, a group of mainly women and an elder, all dressed in their traditional clothing, were speaking among themselves in Kichwa. Among the people in the room, Sanchez was beaming with joy.

Cultural Survival’s Indigenous Youth Community Media Fellowship Project, a part of the Community Media Grants Project, aims to support 6 Indigenous youth from the ages of 14 to 25 in building capacity in media, journalism, radio production, advocacy skills, technical abilities, and regional networking. Capacity of the fellows will be built through trainings, community radio exchanges, radio production,  and conference attendance. This fellowship is an opportunity to enable the fellows to successfully represent the voices of their communities and bring awareness of local issues to global conversations through their proposed projects.

Sanchez, 20, is one of those youth who sits silently, but when given the space to speak, embodies wisdom and truth. She is an ancient spirit with a youthful mind, full of wonder and curiosity. Part of her project is to create a documentary radio series from all the workshops she is facilitating, capturing the ancestral knowledge of Kichwa culture, language, medicine, ceremonies, and traditions. The youth fellowship project supports this process, and Cultural Survival is proud to have Sanchez as one of our first fellows.

Sánchez is an artist at heart singing traditional Kichwa songs, and is part of the Waruntzy dance group that represents threatened Abagos traditions. She recently completed her bachelor’s degree in science. Fluent in Kichwa and  Spanish, she manages a radio program, “Don Dolon, Dolon,” and the radio documentary, “Wawas” at Radio Cotacachi.  Her fellowship project is to share ancestral knowledge in Kichwa with youth with the participation of elders. She will create a radio series on leading cultural workshops based in experiential methodology, participatory action, and archiving documentation collected in a database for her community to access. She will also organize 6 trainings for children and youth in 18 Indigenous communities in her region in radio production.

Sanchez has a message to share with other youth: “My name is Ñusta Sanchez. I am from Santa Barbara community in Cotacachi, province of Imbabura from Ecuador. I am one of the youth fellows from Cultural Survival. I feel very proud and happy to be selected because I have had the opportunity to learn about my community and other communities in  Cotacachi. The Fellowship has also given other youth a chance to participate and learn. It is very important that other youth become involved in learning about different cultures from other communities and other aspects of our communities. It is important that youth participate because we are losing and forgetting our own cultures and traditions.” 


Photo credits/captions:

Ñusta Sanchez in action interviewing youth and elders about Kichwa traditions and language. Photo by Nati Garcia.

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