Guillermo Delgado - Doctorate: Anthropology, 1987

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Graduate School Days: Scholarship, music, solidarity

The first meeting with my advisor at the Department of Anthropology was to arrange an Instructorship in the Andean Quechua language. It was 1977. UT became one of the very first U.S. universities to teach the largest indigenous language spoken today, with easily ten million speakers. It was an unhurried ‘blue Monday’ and a to-the-point conversation with Professor Brian Stross, a linguist. I was arriving from Santiago de Chile, via Rome, Italy. My goal was to start school as a newly accepted graduate.  Chile, after September 11, 1973, displaced about a million people. Some found new lives in Europe, Australia or other countries in the Americas, and I along with my family was one of them. As the months and years went by, after taking and finishing a series of required courses, I joined Professor Richard P. Schaedel’s seminar on Peasants in the Third World. But given the situation, there was need to juggle several responsibilities, including educating my new community about upholding Human Rights given their absence in several Latin American countries living under authoritarian regimes. Besides my course work and instructorship, I was editing a manuscript written by my father who passed away after I got to Austin. Needless to say, finishing up my degree required sustained work at the Nattie Lee Benson Latin American collection, a superb and well-organized library where I was able to find unique treasures of the intellectual contributions from Latin America.

Regarding my own graduate education, I have to say with pride that I enjoyed the dynamic spirit I found among my professors as well as their scientific and educational craft and commitment to issues and places that they had researched, each with their own theoretical perspectives. Inspirational sessions, lectures, and academic gatherings constituted the seminars lead by Richard P. Schaedel, Richard N. Adams, Brian Stross, Joel Scherzer, James Brow, Mary Sanches, Marcia Herndon, Enrique Mayer, John Cornell, and Don Américo Paredes, as well as other visiting scholars such as Angel Palerm, Universidad Iberoamericana (Mexico) and Renate B. Viertler, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil.

At UT in general, given my interests that were not only about Anthropology, I was introduced to the works of Gerard Behágue (Music Department), Harry Cleaver (Economics) and Julio Ortega (Literature) with whom I took seminars, joined study groups, organized symposia and finally became friends.

Austin, at the time, was beginning to be called “The Third Coast.” This inspired a group of graduate students to form the musical ensemble “Toqui Amaru” whose original members came from the Departments of Engineering (Enrique Cuevas, Ph.D.), Literature (Nestor Lugones, Ph.D.), Psychology (Renato Espinoza, Ph.D.), Music (Alejandro Cardona, MA.) and myself on drums and flutes. As we, the original members graduated and left, “Toqui Amaru” acquired new life and new members, another generation of UT Austinites, Pipo Hernández, John Wheat, Edgar Rivera and Pam Hernández joined and strengthened the musical band. Its mission was inspired in the protest music of the 1960s, as the group came together to inform and educate the U.S. public about the defense and promotion of Human Rights and freedom. Austin music spaces that opened their doors to this Latin American ensemble were: The Texas Armadillo World Headquarters, The Cactuc Café, Las Manitas, The Hole in the Wall, and the open stage at Laguna Gloria.

Before I finished my dissertation on mining and miners, I published a Quechua-English poetry translation in collaboration with another UT graduate (Grady Hillman), an edited book on the Bolivian labor movement, and my first contribution to an edited book by Canadian anthropologist Ross N. Crumrine.  Also, at the invitation of my graduate school classmate Joseph Bousquet (Ph.D.), and Prof. Cleaver, I read a paper at a Political Science Association panel. At UT I distinctly remember the young student, Mr. Paul Begala, as a busy organizer for the Democratic Party. In more than one occasion I wrote or co-authored articles for The Daily Texan, that once a year published The Deadly Texan, a satiric issue of campus life, things Texan and national and international events.

KUT-FM Radio Station remains memorable. It was there where Dan del Santo, John Wheat-Juan Trigo, and Michelle Perez conducted music programs, becoming a space where, often, Latin American expertise was happily offered.  My colleague and friend of thirty three years, John Schechter (Ph.D. Music) and I organized a two hour radio program with traditional music of Latin America; we added ethnomusicologist’s and anthropological annotations to our script as we played songs and compositions that had never before been aired on public radio.

After I submitted my dissertation and received my Ph.D., I visited Austin on two or three occasions, mostly to visit friends. On most occasions I always ended up at the Nettie Lee Benson collection looking for a rare source that could only be found there. And, of course, I visited Richard P. Schaedel to whom my colleague John Schechter and I dedicated our co-edited trilingual book on Quechua Verbal Artistry (Bonn 2004). Since graduating, I have worked in Washington D.C., Minnesota and at the University of California, where I lecture and write about Latin American anthropology, politics and cultural studies. Since 2001, I serve as the editor for the Bolivian Studies Association, www.bolivianstudies.org [see: Journal].

Before I close, I acknowledge with gratitude the teachings of all my professors, especially Richard P. Schaedel, Richard N. Adams, James Brow, and Harry Cleaver. Some of them were obviously influential in inviting luminaries such as: Eric Hobsbawm, Octavio Paz, Claude Levi-Strauss, Juan Goytisolo, Jorge Luis Borges, whose enlightening lectures were always so inspiring. Another graduate who I did not get to meet but who kept being mentioned is J.M. Coetzee. Last but not least, a note of appreciation goes to all my classmates, former students, and community friends.

Thank you, UT.

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