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Embracing an indigenous heritage


Luz María de la Torre Amaguana is a renowned academic whose research, writing, and teaching are influenced by her unique perspective and experiences as an indigenous woman.

Luz María was born and raised in the town of Otavalo, a largely indigenous town, in the Imbabura Province of the Andean highlands of Ecuador. She completed her undergraduate studies in applied linguistics, specifically bilingual education, from the Catholic University of Ecuador. “In 1979, Catholic University offered a few of us scholarships to study at the Sorbonne in France,” Luz María explained. “Both schools wanted to integrate a group of Indigenous students into their linguistics program. Some of us also had the opportunity to work at the center for Indigenous education.” Later on, Luz María also earned her master’s degree in political science at the Facultad de Ciencias Sociales (FLASCO).

Her passion for Indigenous rights and her leadership has led her to live a life of great achievements. She worked at the now-defunct Field Study School in Ecuador of the Program of Latin American Studies at Arizona State University and was a teacher of Kichwa for Trent University in Canada. She has also taught Indigenous topics at Middlebury Spanish Summer School, and for the last 6 years has been lecturing for the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Latin American Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). When asked about her plans for the future, she said, “that’s a good question that I don’t have an answer to, because my life has been an amazing and unforeseen journey.”

In addition to her experiences working at universities, she has also consulted for UNICEF, UNESCO, the United Nations, Ecuador’s Minister of Exterior Affairs and other international organizations. She was also named president of the National Council of Indigenous Ecuadorian Women.

Luz María tells us that only recently have people begun to embrace indigenous people. “Embracing our culture and examining our culture and traditions has helped regain our pride as a community. It characterizes us and has permitted us to be recognized throughout the world.”

Her publications range from bilingual Spanish/Kichwa dictionaries to books and papers on sociopolitical, economic, and feminist subjects. Each demonstrates her commitment to fight for the advancement, betterment, and sustainable development of a more just society for indigenous communities.