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Vassar College

Publication Date

Spring 2017

Program Name

Chile: Cultural Identity, Social Justice, and Community Development


This project is an exploration of the Bilingual Intercultural Education Program (EIB) mandated in Chilean schools with a high density of indigenous students. It focusses on the implementation and impacts of EIB in Putre, a small town in the Arica and Parinacota region of Chile where the majority of the residents are Aymara. After gaining the region in the War of the Pacific at the end of the 19th century, the Chilean government waged a violent campaign of forced cultural assimilation known as “Chilenization” against the local Aymara people. The effects of the linguistic repression that occurred during this period is evident today in the low rates of Aymara in Chile who speak their indigenous language.

The purpose of this project is not to evaluate the success or failure of EIB as a measure to revive the Aymara language. Instead, the aim is to evaluate the potential of the program to succeed as an anti colonial project that strives to bolster the self esteem of students within their indigenous identities, thereby combating the centuries of shame associated with Aymara language and culture. Since the arrival of the Spanish to Latin America, language has been used as a site of mental colonization, with schools serving to enforce the shift from indigenous to European languages. EIB is a partially successful effort to reverse this process. EIB does not attempt to teach students to speak Aymara beyond basic phrases, and its limited ambition sends the message that Aymara language, and by extension, culture, is not relevant or valuable enough to warrant the time and energy required to achieve fluency. However, the lessons on Aymara history, culture, and worldview, and the presence of Aymara words in the classroom, provide students with a powerful connection to the past, and give them the opportunity to see themselves and their culture represented and valued in an academic setting.

In this investigation, I use the scholastic community in Putre as a case study in the implementation of EIB. In addition to interviews with the EIB teachers and the family members of students enrolled in the program, I incorporate observations of EIB classes in order to combine the reality inside the classroom with the theory of language and power in a post colonial world.


Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Community-Based Research | Curriculum and Instruction | Educational Methods | Indigenous Education | Indigenous Studies | Latin American Studies


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