Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

Field Studies in the Americas (FSA)

Field Studies in the Americas (FSA)

One of the most attractive attributes of my current employment is that each year in early March for two weeks I get to lead a field studies trip to Latin America. FSA has been a grand experience, personally and professionally. As a professor of international relations and Latin American politics, the trips have enabled me to see more of the region than I otherwise could.

Right now I am in Peru after spending a few days Mexico. This year’s trip – my fifth – will continue on to Colombia before returning home to Alabama. By the time this trip is over, I will have been to Mexico five times, Colombia twice, Peru twice, Chile once, Ecuador once, and Panama once. In Mexico, we have visited Mexico City, Guadalajara, Toluca, and Tapachula. In Colombia, Bogota, Cartagena, and Medellin. In Peru, Lima, Cusco, and Machu Pichu. In Chile, Santiago, Valparaiso, and wine country. In Ecuador, Quito and the amazon region. In Panama, the Panama Canal. Next year we will travel once again to Mexico and, I hope, back to Chile. With some luck I hope to be able to travel to a new country, perhaps Nicaragua, Bolivia, or maybe even Argentina. I think that of the countries that I have had the opportunity to visit, there are some that I hope to visit once again on my own dime for exploration and adventure. In addition to Mexico, where I plan to retire, I think that Peru tops the list. I would love to mountain bike in the Cusco environs, hike Machu Pichu, and surf its northwestern coast.

I got to thinking about this opportunity and about how it might go away due to budget cuts or shifting priorities at my institution. I certainly would be sad to see FSA go. They are extremely valuable for the students, for my institution, and, not least of all, for our country partners. However, I understand fiscal and political reality enough to be a realist and am grateful for the experiences and memories.

Here are some pretty pictures of Machu Pichu. I had my students read relevant sections of 1491 in preparation. Be sure to click on the photo to see it in nice resolution.





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