Study Abroad

Human Rights and Communication: My Internship in Ecuador

Artist-designed posters based on feminism and living in a digital world, created for a workshop sponsored by internship site El Churo. 

Abigail Blonigen is HECUA’s student blogger from the Community Internships in Latin America program in Ecuador this fall. Abigail, a Spanish, English, and Global, Cultural & Language Studies major from the College of St. Scholastica, will be sending dispatches from the field this semester. You can read Emily’s first post here. To learn more about the Community Internships in Latin America program, click here.

As a student with a multitude of interests, it is hard for me to narrow it down to what I want to do. In other words, the question, “What do you want to do after graduation?” is not my favorite. Because of this, I was open to whatever internship HECUA could find me. To my surprise, they managed to combine several of my interests and find me the perfect match.

My internship, or pasantía, is in a human rights collective called “El Churo.” Churo focuses on issues such as feminism, LGBTQ+ issues, and indigenous rights through community education, media, and journalism. My first week they already had an event on cyberfeminism, which consisted of three days of speakers, workshops, and discussion on how to make feminism available and accessible to all. There were women there from Mexico, Peru, and Colombia as well as Ecuador. I did not help out a whole lot as it was my very first week, but, since I also plan admissions events at my college, I could help with little things like checking people in, room changes, and food. I had the opportunity to take photos, attend workshops, and learn about feminism in Latin America.

Participants at the cyberfeminism event. 

In the weeks following the event, I worked on editing photos, creating photo galleries, translating, and helping out with random things here and there–the typical duties of an intern. As I focus on primarily written journalism, I was able to learn a little more about the audio-visual side. We began to plan our next event, which took place this past week. This one was a five day conference on community communications with a focus on indigenous communities. It is important in Ecuador and everywhere to have multiple platforms for accessing news and current events, as mainstream media tends to focus on “big” stories. Media and journalism are essential for making the voices of underrepresented populations heard.

A mural painted for our community communication event.

Though I was not able to attend the entire event as the last few days were in another city, I felt as if I had a much bigger role the second time around. I help set up, took, edited, and posted photos, participated in some of the workshops, had more confidence in my Spanish to talk with the participants. In one of the workshops, we all drew a picture of our communities and explained them in front of the group. Since there were people from all over Ecuador–and a couple from Colombia and Brazil–I learned a lot about the country through people’s personal experiences. I even presented on my little town of 350 in Minnesota. A few weeks ago I would have never had the courage to present in Spanish in front of a group of strangers.

The people who work at my internship are also very fun, as we all have similar interests. They invited me to a party to celebrate the rebranding of their radio/news station, and it was one of my favorite nights so far in Ecuador. There was live music of several different genres, including a more traditional indigenous band. A dance broke out, and I was promptly pulled into the circle to dance and clap along. It did not matter if you were indigenous, mestizo, white, afro-ecuadorian, gay, bisexual, or straight, we were all in the same circle just dancing and enjoying life.

Helping to record an interview at the cyberfeminism event. 

Overall, everyone in my group has had a rewarding experience with their internships. Some work on farms, some with kids, or in an office like me. We are now pen pals with the girls at one of my friend’s internships. If there is anything Ecuador has taught me, it is to have an open mind and to make the best of your situation. Though I still can not answer the “What do you want to do?” question, I am glad HECUA found me an internship to let me explore several of my interests at once, and I know I will be able to use the skills I have obtained in the future.

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