Heidi Baer-Postigo, Academic Director
Heidi Baer-Postigo received her MS in counseling from the University of Oregon in 1995 and her BA in psychology from Occidental College in 1991. Her previous experience in Bolivia includes working for several NGOs in La Paz, as a school counselor for S.O.S. Children's Villages, and as a volunteer for the Center for Development and Promotion of Self-Help (CEDEFOA). Ms. Baer-Postigo's interviews with Aymara women participants of the Centro Femenino Machaq Q'hantati were published in Women: Stories of an Experience (1993) by Silvia Salinas Mulder. In addition, Ms. Baer-Postigo's overseas experience includes living for four years in Germany and eight months in Mexico. From 1995 to 1998, Heidi worked at the University of Oregon as an international student advisor and as an overseas study program coordinator. In Oregon she also worked as a counselor at Lane Community College, where she founded and coordinated a Latino outreach project for English as a Second Language students. In 2008 she created Kids’ Books Bolivia, a reciprocity project that contributes to the production of affordable bilingual books written by SIT Bolivia students. This book collection celebrates Bolivian reality and serves to raise international awareness about Bolivia's diverse cultures and pressing social issues. Ms. Baer-Postigo has been an academic director for SIT in Bolivia since spring 1999.
View Heidi Baer-Postigo's full CV.
Patricia Parra, Program Assistant
Patricia Parra has worked as program assistant for the SIT Study Abroad program in Cochabamba since 1996. She studied sociology at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon and has been trained in project evaluation, union organizing, and NGO fundraising. She has over 30 years of experience working for international organizations in Bolivia, including 15 years with the Canadian NGO CUSO, where she worked as assistant program analyst and as the coordinator of a youth leadership project. During this time she was invited to China and Canada to give presentations about alternative economies and also started the first international union for local employees. As project coordinator and analyst for CUSO, she also worked with regional development projects, directly supporting grassroots social organizations.
Gladys Arandia de Palomino, Language Coordinator / Spanish Instructor
Chichi Palomino serves as language coordinator for the SIT Study Abroad program in Cochabamba and has been a language instructor for the program since 1994. She has over 35 years of teaching experience and has been invited to the US and Switzerland on various occasions to teach Spanish as a second language.
Martha Coca, Spanish Language Instructor
Martha Coca has been an SIT Spanish language instructor since 1991. She holds master’s degrees from both Bolivia and France. She has been a professor at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon since 1987, where she also served as director of the Department of Languages and Linguistics and dean of the faculty of Humanities and Educational Sciences. She was the rector of the Universidad Privada Abierta Latinoamericana from 2004 to 2005.
Mercedes Pérez, Language Instructor
Mercedes Pérez has been a language instructor for the SIT Study Abroad program in Cochabamba since 2000. She studied anthropology at the Universidad Católica de Cochabamba and has over 30 years of experience teaching Spanish and English as a second language. She is also an artist and musician, and sang for many years in a rock band.
Pochi Salinas, Homestay Coordinator
Pochi Salinas has served as homestay coordinator since 2005. She studied agricultural sciences at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon and education at the National Institute of Alternative Education “Pacifico Feletti.” She has worked for nine years at an educational foundation called the “Cigarra” outside of Cochabamba, which has a center for creativity and expression, a program for pedagogical assistance, and workshops on topics such as ecological agriculture, conflict resolution, women in local development, climate change and justice, and more.
Alejandra Aguilar, Homestay Coordinator
Alejandra Aguilar has served as homestay coordinator since 2006. She holds a BS in social communication and has worked on numerous television, film, and publishing projects in Bolivia and Chile. She sings in a Bolivian choral group and has been in involved in numerous musical and cultural activities.
Calixto Quispe Huanca, Village Stay Coordinator
Calixto Quispe is an Aymara yatiri (natural healer and spiritual leader) as well as a deacon in the Catholic Church, the only Bolivian to hold both of these titles. He is the president of the Ecumenical Commission of Inter-religious Dialogue and dedicates much of his time working to build respect and understanding between different religious groups in Bolivia. He has co-authored four books from the collection Indigenous Spirituality, published by Editorial Verbo Divino.
Faculty and lecturers typically include:
Ismael Saavedra, JD, Documentary Film Coordinator
Ismael Saavedra's experience and knowledge of Bolivia, his native country, was formed through his careers as, first, an Air Force pilot, then, a student of law and a law professor, and eventually through his film career. He received an undergraduate degree in law at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, in 1977 and a JD in law in 1980. He is currently a PhD candidate in security, defense, and development. After leaving Bolivia in 1980, he dedicated himself to his work in ethnographic and documentary film production. Among his many film credits are Panama Deception (Academy Award winner, 1992), Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Academy Award nominee, 1984), Chuquiago (a classic Bolivian ethnographic film, 1976), and Landscapes of Memory (prizes at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals, 1997). More recently, he produced a trilogy of documentaries about Bolivia´s process of change, focusing on identity and memory. In Mr. Saavedra's own words, he has always seen his work in film as an effort to educate the world about the problems of his own country, of Latin America, and of the world. Mr. Saavedra was also an academic director for SIT in Bolivia from 1999 to 2013.
Leonardo de la Torre, Sociologist
Leonardo de la Torre Ávila has degrees in sociology and social communication sciences and currently works as a university lecturer. He has been awarded the National and Latin American Social Communication Research Prizes, the National Journalism Prize for Human Development (United Nations Development Programme, National Association of Journalists), and the Second Prize for Journalism Specialized in Banking. He has published two books on Bolivian migration and several research papers discussing Bolivian migration dynamics and their relationship with development. He has presented papers in academic seminars and conferences in Tuxtla Gutiérrez; Bogotá; Washington, DC; and several cities in Bolivia. For three years he directed the newspaper Mal Bicho and collaborated with national newspapers and a short story anthology. He recently worked with Sergio Estrada and Donald Ranvaud (executive producer of the feature films City of God, Central Station, and The Constant Gardener, among others) to produce a documentary film that tells the story of the transnational families of Cochabamba’s Valle Alto and reveals their perseverance in pursuing their dreams of happiness by working in other countries without forgetting their homeland.
Fernando Huanacuni, Protocol Ambassador in the Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Fernando Huanacuni was selected by President Evo Morales as the protocol ambassador in the Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the position he currently holds. He is an Aymara lawyer and has been initiated by Aymara elders in Andean cosmovisión as an Aymara spiritual leader. He is the founder of a martial arts school in Bolivia and for several years hosted a national television program on Andean cosmovisión.
Kathryn Ledebur studied Andean history at FLACSO in Quito, Ecuador. She has collaborated with a series of human rights and drug policy organizations in the United States and Latin America. Since 1997, she has worked at the Andean Information Network (AIN), an organization dedicated to investigation, analysis, education, and dialogue on the impacts of US-funded counterdrug policy in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and has been AIN’s director since 1999. She is the author of numerous articles as well as the chapter on Bolivia in the book Drugs and Democracy in Latin America (2003).
Roberto Mamani Mamani, Artist
Roberto Mamani Mamani, of Aymara origin, is one of Bolivia's most highly recognized artists. His beautiful and very colorful works of art are collected and exhibited worldwide. He has won numerous national and international awards, and his paintings are known best for their vibrant colors and the intense emotions they both exude and evoke.
Felix Muruchi, Lecturer and El Alto Excursion Coordinator
Activist Felix Muruchi studied law at the Public University of El Alto. He was born near one of Bolivia's major tin mining centers in 1946, began work in the mines as a teenager, and rose to become a union leader. He was imprisoned and twice forced into exile before returning to Bolivia in 1985, where he continues to be an activist as well as a social science researcher. He is the co-author of two books: Pochos Rojos and an autobiography of his life. He is currently leading a research team on the topic of indigenous community justice systems in Bolivia.
Rafael Puente, History Lecturer
Rafael Puente is one of the most prominent figures in Bolivia’s intellectual, educational, and political arenas. He was selected by President Evo Morales to serve as interim governor of Cochabamba in 2008 and as vice minister of the government in 2006. From 1989 to 1992, he was a national congressman for the department of Cochabamba. He has over 40 years of experience as an educator in both formal and informal settings. He has served as professor, advisor, and evaluator for many prestigious institutions and organizations in Bolivia and abroad. He has written several books and has led many research projects, including founding and directing CIPCA, one of Bolivia’s most prominent centers for the research and promotion of campesinos in Santa Cruz. He is an active and passionate promoter of popular rural education and is currently responsible for the MAS government’s “Mobile School” for the political formation of social organizations.
Oscar Olivera, Activist and Author
Activist and former shoe-factory worker Oscar Olivera was one of the main protagonists in Cochabamba’s Water War of 2000. This battle was one of Latin America’s first and most important victories against corporate globalization, during which the protests of ordinary Bolivian citizens pressured the Bolivian government to cancel Cochabamba’s water privatization contract with the Bechtel Corporation. Oscar Olivera has been executive secretary of the Cochabamba Federation of Factory Workers since 2000 and is the spokesperson for the Coordinating Committee for the Defense of Water and Life. He was awarded the Letelier-Moffit Human Rights Award in 2000 and the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2001. He is the author of the book Cochabamba!: Water Rebellion in Bolivia.
Julieta Paredes, Activist and Author
Julieta Paredes is one of Bolivia’s most well-known Aymara feminists and lesbian activists. She is a founding member of Comunidad Mujeres Creando and Asamblea Feminista. She is a poet and the author of the following books: Hilando fino: Desde el feminismo comunitario (2008), Grafiteadas (1999), Con un montón de palabras (2000), and Porque la memoría no es puro cuento (2001).
Julio Postigo, PhD, Educator
Julio Postigo has been an educator in the Bolivian public educational system since 1986 and has taught in both formal and alternative settings at the elementary, high school, university, and graduate school level. He worked for seven years as a professor at a rural teachers’ training college in Cochabamba and has also taught in the US and Mexico. His areas of specialty and research include the philosophical foundations of Bolivia’s educational reform and innovative methodologies for teaching ethics, leadership, and environmental education. He is the author of two books: Curriculum for Elementary Environmental Education and Humanistic Strategies for Teaching Ethics through Leadership, Critical Thinking and Yoga.
Roberto Sahonero, Director of Los Masis
Roberto Sahonero is the founder (1969) and director of Los Masis, an award-winning Bolivian folklore music group and of Centro Cultural Los Masis, an educational organization in Sucre centered on the premise of educating marginalized children through teaching traditional musical forms. Los Masis was named by the National Bicentennial Committee as cultural ambassador to Europe, where they performed in countries such as Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland. The group regularly tours throughout Bolivia, Europe, and the United States.
Walter Sanchez Canedo, PhD
Walter Sanchez holds a doctorate in archaeology from the University of Uppsala, Sweden; a master’s degree in development from the Universidad Mayor de San Simon (UMSS) in Cochabamba; and postgraduate degrees in geographic information systems, administration and evaluation of social projects, and Bolivian Andean ethnic studies. He is a professor and researcher at UMSS and the Archeology Museum of the Institute of Anthropological Studies in Cochabamba. In 2009 he won a national award for an essay he wrote about culture. He is one of Bolivia’s most prominent ethno-musicologists, has conducted many research studies, and has published numerous articles in the field of ethno-musicology.
Jim Shultz is the founder and executive director of The Democracy Center, based in Bolivia and San Francisco. A graduate of UC Berkeley and Harvard University, Jim is the author of three books, including the award-winning The Democracy Owners' Manual (Rutgers University Press, 2002) and Dignity and Defiance – Stories from Bolivia's Challenge to Globalization (UC Press 2009). He is also the author of a variety of major reports on global public policy issues and his articles on globalization have appeared in newspapers and magazines across the US, Canada, and Europe. His reporting on the Bolivian Water Revolt was named the top story of 2000 by Project Censored. As a globally recognized expert in citizen advocacy, Jim has led advocacy training programs for thousands of activists across the US, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. He has also worked on staff for the California State Legislature, as an advocate with Common Cause and Consumers Union, and has taught public policy at San Francisco State University. Jim has lived with his wife and children in Cochabamba, Bolivia, since 1998, where he also served for many years as president of an 80-child orphanage.
Gaby Vallejo Canedo, Author
Gaby Vallejo is one of Bolivia’s most renowned authors and the recipient of numerous national and international awards. She is the author of four novels, a book of short stories, seven essays, and 12 children’s books. Her novel Hijo de Opa, set at the time of the 1952 Bolivian Revolution, was made into a well-known movie, Los Hermanos Cartagena. Ms. Vallejo has been a professor of literature and language for over 18 years at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and also teaches at the Catholic University of Cochabamba. She is the founder of Th’uruchapitas, Bolivia’s first children’s library. She has represented Bolivia at numerous international conferences, served as president of the Bolivian National Union of Poets and Writers, and been the president of Bolivia’s branch of the World Association of Writers.
Alejandra Ramírez Soruco, PhD
Alejandra is a sociologist with two master’s degrees, two postgraduate degrees, and a PhD in sustainable human development (Universidad Bolivariana de Santiago de Chile, 2012). She is the head of the Development Studies Center for Higher Education at the University of San Simon in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and teaches at both the undergraduate and graduate level at three universities in Bolivia. Her areas of academic interest/research include human development, interculturality, cultural policy, and citizenship. She has authored numerous books, book chapters, and journal articles in Bolivia and internationally. Her most recently co-authored book is titled Brave Women: Women’s Citizenship and Sustainable Quality of Life in Cochabamba (2012). She has served as an Independent Study Project (ISP) advisor and co-instructor of SIT Bolivia’s Research Methods and Ethics course and is a member of the program’s ISP Local Ethics Review Board.
Olivia Román, MA
Olivia Román is a sociologist with an MA in Latin American studies and cultural policy from the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar in Ecuador. She has taught both undergraduate and graduate students and served as an advisor for research and development projects. Her area of expertise is qualitative methodologies for research and the development of social projects in the area of gender and multiculturalism. Olivia has presented her research on political participation and migration at a number of international university conferences (Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, Canada). She has coordinated development projects for indigenous women in several rural areas of Bolivia. She has ample experience in strategic planning, curriculum development, and strengthening civil society. Olivia has also taken on a number of roles for the SIT Bolivia program, including Independent Study Project (ISP) advisor, co-instructor of SIT Bolivia’s Research Methods and Ethics course, and member of the program’s ISP Local Ethics Review Board.
Andrés Visinoni, PhD, Ecologist
Andrés has a PhD in ecology with a specialization in tropical forests from the University of Venice, Italy, as well as a postgraduate degree and master’s degrees from universities in Central America and Bolivia. He has lived in Bolivia since 1988, working with academic and research institutions on topics including the environment, sustainable natural resource management, and the valorization of knowledge of indigenous groups in the Amazon and the Chaco. Previously, he held the position of coordinator of the Center for Environmental Studies in San Rafael de Amboró, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and has been in charge of many projects initiated by international organizations in numerous Latin American countries. Andrés has also published many works and collaborated on numerous research projects in Bolivia. He is currently the international technical assistant for a European Union program supporting the national conservation policy in the protected areas of Bolivia. He has collaborated with SIT Bolivia since 1996, as Independent Study Project advisor, lecturer, and coordinator of educational excursions in the Amazon.
William Powers, Lecturer and Tropical Lowlands Excursion Coordinator
William Powers has worked for two decades in development aid and conservation in Latin America, Africa, and North America. From 2002 to 2004, he managed the community components of a project in the Bolivian Amazon that won a 2003 prize for environmental innovation from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. His essays and commentaries on global issues have appeared in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune and on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air. Powers has worked at the World Bank and holds international relations degrees from Brown and Georgetown. A third-generation New Yorker, Powers has also spent two decades exploring the American culture of speed and its alternatives in some fifty countries around the world. He has covered the subject in his four books and written about it in The Washington Post and The Atlantic. Powers is a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute and an adjunct faculty member at New York University.