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Ecuador: Development, Politics, and Languages

Ecuador: Development, Politics, and Languages

Study the relationship between power and language in Ecuador as the country’s multilingual and multiethnic populations strive for social change.

This program analyzes the connections and interplay between language and power in Ecuador. Students examine how language shapes politics, and how power works through language by exploring how different groups in Ecuador have used languages to instill, reinforce, subvert, and reinvent power relationships, both historically and today.

Major topics of study include:

  • Ecuador’s multiple languages, from cultural and linguistic perspectives
  • Ecuadorian history and politics
  • Political discourse as an object of study
  • The relationship between the language(s) of political power and social movements in Ecuador
  • Introduction to Quichua
"While studying abroad with SIT you are constantly being stimulated, constantly learning, and constantly being challenged. It redefines education and provides you with the tools to redefine the world, and your role in it." —Lucy Wallace, Connecticut College

Study issues of language and power in Ecuador.

quitoKey topics of study on the program include:

  • Political discourses, ideology, and difference in Ecuador.
  • The successes and failures of different development paradigms in Ecuador.
  • The state of indigenous languages in Ecuador, in particular Quichua, and the concern for languages in danger of extinction.
  • Particularities of Ecuadorian Spanish, especially in relation to region, ethnicity, and class.

Live in Quito (program base).

Students spend a considerable part of the program in the city of Quito. Founded by Spanish colonizers in the 16th century on top of an existing indigenous settlement, Quito has a mix of colonial and contemporary styles and a huge mix of people from different ethnic, class, and national backgrounds.

Students find both traditional and trendy areas to explore, and rich settings of urban sounds, signs, and sites to analyze, as they think about the city’s development. As they wander through Quito, students discover markets, businesses, churches, museums, bookstores, stunning mountain views, and quaint plazas.

Advance your Spanish skills while learning Quichua.

All students have plentiful, ongoing opportunities throughout the semester to advance their Spanish and gain exposure to Quichua and other indigenous languages.

Complete an Independent Study Project (ISP)

undergraduate research projectAll students produce a final Independent Study Project. The ISP offers students the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of their choice within the program’s broad concerns with power, politics, language, and development. The ISP can be conducted in Quito or in another approved location in Ecuador appropriate to the project.

Sample ISP topics include:

  • Linguistic landscape of Quito
  • Political perspectives on endangered languages
  • Sustainability and restoration in indigenous communities
  • The discourse of development in Ecuador
  • Bilingual intercultural education
  • Social communication, micropolitics, and activism


Four recent semesters of college-level Spanish or equivalent and the ability to follow coursework in Spanish, as assessed by SIT.

Access Virtual Library Guide

Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Paradigms of Development and Political Discourse in Ecuador — syllabus
(LACB 3005 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
This seminar provides students with a broad introduction to the core themes of the program. It offers an overview of Ecuadorian history and politics, introduces the concept of political discourse as an object of study, and examines the relationship between the language(s) of political power and development in this country. Through lectures, course readings, site visits, and excursions, students analyze how Ecuador has conceptualized and strategized its development. They then examine the discourse around these efforts, asking how language and power are related in Ecuador. Students construct a nuanced understanding of how different groups in Ecuador have used language to instill, reinforce, subvert, and reinvent power relationships over time as the country strives to develop. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.

Languages in Contact: Spanish, Quichua, and Other Languages in Ecuador — syllabus
(LACB 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
In the second seminar, students combine theory and practice to study Ecuador’s languages in three different manners. First, they explore the history of Ecuadorian Spanish from its Old World roots to New World evolutions, into the national language as it exists today. From a cultural and linguistic focus, students study the encounter between Spanish and Ecuador’s indigenous languages. They consider the politics of bilingual education, questions surrounding intellectual production and translation, and the growing concern for languages in danger of extinction. The second module of the course hones in on the particularities of Ecuadorian Spanish. Students learn idiomatic expressions, study slang, and consider different registers of Spanish (formal and informal), which will help them read political texts more critically. In the third module, all students take a set of introductory lessons in Quichua. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.

Advanced Readings on Contemporary Ecuador — syllabus (coming soon)
(SPAN 2000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Advanced Readings on Contemporary Ecuador — syllabus
(SPAN 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
Advanced Readings on Contemporary Ecuador — syllabus (coming soon)
(SPAN 4000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
In this course, students refine their Spanish language skills while furthering their cultural knowledge by engaging with a series of academic readings on contemporary Ecuador. The course deepens students’ contact with intellectual work produced in Spanish and in Ecuador and includes visits to several relevant sites in Quito such as the Ecuadorian Institute of Intellectual Property and the National Library in Quito. Students take an ungraded placement exam to determine the appropriate class placement. The outgoing exam includes both a written and an oral component.

Research Methods and Ethics: Approaches to Political and Linguistic Analysis — syllabus
(ANTH 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
In this research methods course designed to prepare students for the Independent Study Project, students learn how to organize and conduct a research project. Through lectures, readings, and field activities, students study and practice a range of methods related to studying development, language, power, and political discourse. They examine the ethical issues surrounding field research related to the program themes and are guided through the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review process, which forms a core component of the course. By the end of the course, students will have chosen a research topic, selected appropriate methods, and written a solid proposal for an Independent Study Project related to the program’s themes. All coursework is conducted in Spanish.

Independent Study Project — syllabus
(ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
Conducted in Quito or in another approved location in Ecuador appropriate to the project, the Independent Study Project offers students the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of their choice within the program’s broad concerns with power, politics, language, and development. The project integrates learning from the various components of the program and culminates in a final presentation and formal research paper. Sample topics areas: linguistic landscape of Quito; political perspectives on endangered languages; sustainability and restoration in indigenous communities; the discourse of development in Ecuador; bilingual intercultural education; social communication, micropolitics, and activism.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects/Undergraduate Research

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

festival in EcuadorExcursions to both rural and urban areas throughout Ecuador link classroom learning to interactions with institutional, community, and individual experiences of development paradigms, discourse practices, and politics.

  • In Quito, students have short site visits including to NGOs and government offices focused on development and politics.
  • Students visit Quichua-speaking villages and also indigenous villages where Shuar or other native languages are spoken.
  • The short visit to Guayaquil provides students with a different city experience and exposure to distinct political issues.
  • An excursion to the Intag Cloud Forest Reserve provides students with exposure to one of the most biologically diverse but threatened ecosystems in the world.
  • An excursion to an Amazonian community presents a particularly unique site in which to consider the intersection between language and politics.

Fabian Espinosa, Academic Director

Fabian EspinosaFabian Espinosa studied biology and anthropology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he completed his MA in anthropology. His previous experience includes serving as communication and information coordinator for the Charles Darwin Research Station on the Galápagos Islands, executive director of and researcher for the Cofán Ethnographic Museum in the Cuyabeno Nature Reserve, and advisor to the president of Ecuador on environmental and indigenous affairs. Additionally, he has extensive experience in Ecuador as a naturalist guide and cultural interpreter, leading specialized groups in archaeology, indigenous cosmologies, and natural history. He is also associated with the Instituto Cientifico de Culturas Indigenas (ICCI) and the Universidad Intercultural Amawtay Wasi (UIAW). He co-directed the SIT Ecuador: Development, Politics, and Languages program from 1999 to 2013 and, since 2013, has been the sole director of the program.

View Fabian Espinosa's full CV.

Leonore Cavallero, Intercultural Specialist

Lenore CavalleroLeonore Cavallero has an MA in multicultural education/bilingual counseling from the University of San Francisco, California. She has worked with SIT since 1993, as an academic director of the Ecuador: Culture and Development program and, for one semester, SIT’s Cape Town, South Africa, program. Her professional experience in Ecuador includes eight years working for the Peace Corps Training Center as family coordinator, master trainer, and interim training center director. Prior to the Peace Corps, she worked for two years as a guidance counselor for Ecuadorian high school students. Leonore regularly presents sessions on intercultural/interpersonal relationships and safety issues to international education and volunteer organizations based in Ecuador. She wrote Surviving Re-entry: A Readjustment Manual for Parents, a handbook for parents of students returning home from studying abroad, as well as a safety manual for students. In her role as intercultural specialist, Leonore serves both SIT programs in Ecuador using her expertise to provide support and assistance to students and staff. She has lived in Ecuador since 1981 and raised her two children in a bilingual environment. She has Ecuadorian residency and dual nationality in the US and Italy.

View Leonore Cavallero's full CV.

Faculty and lecturers typically include:

Diego Quiroga, PhD

Diego Quiroga holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is currently vice president of external and student affairs at Universidad San Francisco de Quito and co-director of the Galapagos Academic Institute for the Arts and the Sciences (GAIAS). His area of expertise is sociocultural anthropology and his topical interests include medical anthropology, environmental anthropology, and indigenous and Afro-American cultures of Latin America. Dr. Quiroga has served as dean of the graduate school, dean of academic affairs, dean of social sciences, and full-time professor at Universidad San Francisco de Quito teaching courses in history, Andean anthropology, and medical anthropology. He has conducted extensive research in Ecuador, and his work has been published in many prestigious academic journals. Amazon Basin Productive Systems and Health in Communities Living in the Upper Amazon Basin, Ecuador and Magic and Healing: The Role of the Devil and the Saints in Muisne, Ecuador constitute some of his major contributions to the field.    

María Cuvi, MA

María Cuvi holds an MA in literature from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador. She is considered one of the leading feminist authors in Ecuador. She has extensive experience as a researcher, teacher, and activist. As a professor, she has taught several courses on gender and development, poverty, ethnicity, social movements, environmental issues, and academic writing at several universities and graduate schools including Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO), Universidad Politécnica Salesiana del Ecuador, Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales de Madrid, Universidad de LLeida, Catalunya, Universidad Mayor de San Simón, Cochabamba, Bolivia, and Pitzer College Program in Ecuador. María Cuvi is the author and editor of several pioneer studies in the field of gender both in Ecuador and in the Andean Region. 

Sebastián Granda, MA

Sebastián Granda holds an MA in Latin American studies from Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar. He is currently enrolled in a doctorate program on Latin American Cultural Studies at the same university. He serves as director of social sciences and human behavior studies at Universidad Politécnica Salesiana del Ecuador and teaches sociology of education and bilingual intercultural education. Sebastián Granda is also a research director and teacher at the Pitzer College Program in Ecuador. As a researcher and author, he has contributed significantly in the fields of indigenous rights, intercultural education and pedagogy, citizenship, and migration.

The homestays allowed me to fully immerse myself in the culture and daily life by becoming a part of my families' lives and connecting on a personal level. My homestay families wanted to help me learn and we would talk for hours. I gained a perception of Ecuadorian life I would never have learned from lectures or articles.

Kerry Leigh-Anne Johnson, University of Vermont

homestay mother in Ecuador

Students live with a middle-income family in small towns in the valley of Los Chillos, located about 40 minutes outside of Quito, for two weeks. After class and on weekends, students typically join their host families for a range of activities and social events.


The program’s second homestay is with a middle-class family in an urban neighborhood in Quito. Quito offers a variety of wonderful cultural amenities. Host families enjoy sharing the city with their students by accompanying them to concerts, museums, movies, and other sites. This homestay lasts approximately five weeks.

Amazonian community

The program’s third homestay is in a rural Amazonian community, offering students a very different perspective of Ecuador. This homestay provides an opportunity for students to practice their recently acquired Quichua language skills. It also serves as an exercise for implementing fieldwork methodology prior to the ISP period. This homestay lasts approximately five days. 


Program Dates: Fall 2015

Program Start Date:  Aug 23, 2015

Program End Date:    Dec 5, 2015

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   May 15, 2015


SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $16,330

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • History
    • Political discourse
    • Development issues
    • Cultural anthropology and the humanities
    • Evolution of language
  • Research Methods and Ethics course and Human Subjects Review 
  • Intensive language instruction in Spanish
  • All educational excursions to locations such as Guayaquil and central coast villages, including all related travel costs
  • Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food) 
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board:$2,520

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Quito), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly or through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.  
  • All homestays (Los Chillos, Quito, and an Amazonian community)   
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly or through a stipend, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $100

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $30

International Phone: Each student must have a phone in each country. Cost varies according to personal preferences, phone plans, data plans, etc.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.


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SIT was founded as the School for International Training and has been known as SIT Study Abroad and SIT Graduate Institute since 2007. SIT is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. (NEASC) through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

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