Home Youth jersey ‘That’s why I’m here at Princeton’: Gustavo Blanco-Quiroga ’25 serves native community in Bolivia with Pace Center grant

‘That’s why I’m here at Princeton’: Gustavo Blanco-Quiroga ’25 serves native community in Bolivia with Pace Center grant


For Gustavo Blanco-Quiroga ’25, an education at Princeton represents above all an opportunity: “I wanted to redirect the privilege and the education that I have towards my community.”

The Projects for Peace program at the John H. Pace Jr. ’39 Center for Civil Engagement awards $10,000 to undergraduate students at the university to “implement an innovative service project anywhere in the world – or directly in their own backyard. The award, for Blanco-Quiroga, became another key opportunity to give back to his indigenous community at home in Bolivia.

“I am from the Aymara indigenous community, which is one of the 36 communities we have in Bolivia. It’s a beautiful community where we practice mutuality and service,” he said in an interview with the Daily Princetonian.

Seeking to emulate this tradition of “reciprocity and service” last summer, Blanco-Quiroga used funding from Projects for Peace to launch the Chacha Emprende project, a two-pronged approach to bringing education and resources back into its community.

“The project is based on workshops for gender equality and entrepreneurship support for indigenous leaders,” explained Blanco-Quiroga.

Stephanie Guarachi, a young Bolivian mentor and friend of Blanco-Quiroga, helped develop the original concept for the project.

“We were really looking at these big issues and how the project could help,” she told The Prince.

The Chacha Emprende project addressed the issue of violence against women in Bolivia by organizing workshops on the “new masculinity” for male leaders of indigenous communities.

“We wanted to create a project that not only tackles the issue of gender inequality, but speaks to those who produce it, who are often men,” Blanco-Quiroga said.

“The participants are all leaders within their indigenous communities,” he explained. “I think after participating in these workshops, they have already started to change their behavior. And they will inspire others.

The Pace Center’s Deputy Director for Engaged Pedagogy, Matt Lynn, worked with Blanco-Quiroga to support him in organizing and executing the project. When discussing the Blanco-Quiroga project, Lynn told the “Prince” that “some of the most pressing issues facing indigenous communities in Bolivia are the social forces that Gustavo’s project has really dug into, like violence that is rooted in colonial gender structures.”

“Working with young men in particular is quite revolutionary for Bolivia,” said Lynn, who has lived in Bolivia for 15 years.

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The second part of the Chacha Emprende project focused on the development and financing of entrepreneurship projects for indigenous leaders.

“Communities in Latin America have been hit very hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and Bolivia is trying to recover [its] economic,” Blanco-Quiroga said. “That’s why we have this element of entrepreneurship.”

“I’m so proud of everything they’ve done,” Guarachi said while discussing the entrepreneurship initiatives that were developed and ultimately funded by the Chacha Emprende project.

“It was a challenge deciding which projects would receive funding,” Blanco-Quiroga said. “We received so many really amazing proposals.”

The projects selected by Blanco-Quiroga and a team of judges all aim to serve indigenous communities in Bolivia. An initiative aims to provide marketing services in indigenous languages ​​in addition to Spanish. Another initiative works with indigenous artisans to advertise and sell their products at a fair price in cities.

“Gustavo did a really good job of identifying a community need in his own context, in his own community,” Lynn said. “I don’t think there was anything major that he didn’t consider before going there because he knew the context so well. He knew the needs so well.

Guarachi agreed, “Gustavo was the right person to plan this project for his community.”

For Guarachi, Blanco-Quiroga’s dedication to his home community was particularly impressive because of his own experience with many young Bolivians who feel separated from their history and culture.

“I am part of the second or third generation to live in the city. Sometimes I feel like I’m Bolivian by nationality but not by culture,” she said. “I think a lot of people resent their history and their ancestry, it’s this idea of ​​’you’re not entirely, but you still are. Gustavo brought this experience of being in the native community.

“This project, even though it was a lot of work, filled me with energy,” Blanco-Quiroga said. “Seeing how there are so many young talents in Bolivia inspired me to keep working to help them after I graduated from Princeton.”

Blanco-Quiroga explained how communities in Princeton further shaped his perspective on Indigenous rights issues and supported him in his advocacy.

“A lot of my freshman experience was with the native people of Princeton. I think it’s such a beautiful community that I’m very happy to be a part of,” Blanco-Quiroga said. meeting other people from different aboriginal communities made me feel more comfortable on campus.

Lynn spoke about Blanco-Quiroga’s advocacy initiatives in addition to being a Projects for Peace winner.

“From the moment I met him, there was just this expression of, ‘I am dedicated to working within my community and that is why I am here at Princeton.’ I’m just blown away every time I talk to him,” he said. “His humility and ability to connect with so many people around an issue he’s dedicated to is so amazing.

Blanco-Quiroga reiterated that he sees the Chacha Emprende project as a starting point for more work to be done in his community and within the University.

“There’s still so much work to do, and I feel like I can contribute to that,” he said.

“Princeton invests in Indigenous studies and Indigenous students,” Lynn said. “I am thrilled to see this engagement deepen and grow. There are so many opportunities to engage with Indigenous rights and Indigenous students, faculty and staff who would be attuned to rights and needs indigenous peoples and communities right here in New Jersey, like the Ramapough and the Lenape.

Lynn went on to discuss her time in Bolivia, comparing community organizing there with indigenous advocacy in the United States.

“I think it’s important to note that there are 36 languages ​​spoken in Bolivia. They are all officially recognized in the constitution,” Lynn said. “Not that everything is perfect in Bolivia, of course, but I think the West and the United States have a lot to learn from Bolivia about how indigenous cadres can be part of our national history in the future. .

According to Lynn, the Blanco-Quiroga project has helped achieve this goal by contributing to a culture of service at Princeton based on understanding and real community needs.

“Gustavo has worked on relationship building and community engagement in a way that expresses his commitment to his own community and his own reality,” he said. “That’s what we hope to see more of at the Pace Center: students speaking and working from their own positions. I think we can all engage in this way.

Sydney Eck is Features Editor. She can be contacted at [email protected]