Maria Echenique

photo of Maria EcheniqueAssociate Professor of Spanish

“I was born in Bolivia and came to the United States as a 17-year-old exchange student so I could improve my English language skills. It proved to be a transformative experience, one that allowed me to see the world from a completely different perspective. I realized the power of language as a way to open doors to cultures. Mastering a different language for me was as exhilarating as reading a novel about a distant land or time. And now, I teach Spanish language and Latin American literatures and cultures.

My research focuses on Latin American writers whose voices have been ignored or silenced for a long time — women, working class, indigenous peoples — and the stories they have to tell. In my doctoral dissertation I explored the little-known narrative work of 20th century Bolivian female authors and their literary tradition. I found that, during this period, women authors created a differentiated space for their writing. They chose to privilege the portrayal of the private, intimate world of female characters and to use domesticity as a prism through which they illuminate the public reality. Consequently, their work presents a critical, sometimes subversive reading of Bolivian history that includes traditionally invisible subjects such as women and the subaltern classes. Through the years I have expanded my research to other genres such as Testimonio, a form of literature born to denounce and resist the oppression and violence against the peoples of many regions in the continent during times of dictatorships and civil strife. I have published articles on these topics in journals devoted to Latin American literature and delivered presentations of my work at professional conferences.

As a teacher, I feel like an ambassador of Latin America to this side of the world. It is a mission I take seriously since there is a great need to better understand the cultures and history of our neighboring countries to the south, whose influence becomes ever more important in this country.”

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