Two students reflect on their different experiences of these unique training programs held in the heart of the Sacred Valley in Peru.
Nicole Salfi, 2nd year Medical Student, Tulane University, attended the Wachukuy Anthropology Program in June 2019. Here is her story.
Through the Wachukuy Anthropology Program with Cynthia Ingar, I learned about the intersection of health, politics, economics, and culture. The program was a good fit for me since I was looking to research women’s health in Peru. As someone in their second year of medical school, I want to be aware of different approaches to health and take an integrative, holistic look at what it means for someone to be healthy. Also, I am passionate about anthropology. I love learning about the different layers of humans – the physical body, the emotional mind, and the spiritual psyche – and how these different pieces shape individuals and how society shapes them. Finally, I love how anthropology is so collaborative. It doesn’t shy away from including social justice movements and political and economic forces into the study of the human embodied experience.
In Pisaq, Peru in the Sacred Valley, I visited Cynthia in her home in June 2019. For this time, she was my personal tutor and fellow discussant. First, I learned about the history of anthropology, the strides it has made, and the people who shaped the field’s transitions and how medical and reproductive anthropology budded off into their own fields. I was eager to learn about Andean mindsets and worldviews of health. Cynthia gave representations of how Andean women view their body and how this compared with the Western and biomedical worldview of women’s bodies. Since Andean health is intimately connected with nature, society, and the balance of the spiritual and very real universe. I found solace in the positivity and respect with which the Andean people view women’s bodies. Together we also discussed the multifaceted health system that Peru has, and where Andean women and midwives fit into the scene. Cynthia gave vital accounts of structural violence within the health system of Peru that adversely affect indigenous women – throughout history to the present day. She showed how the scars of the past create distrust, and how Andean women and Andean midwifery is still an underground practice. She showed how biomedicine must be careful, culturally sensitive, and non-imposing in vulnerable populations. Cynthia helped me more solidly create the vision for the type of doctor I would like to be – compassionate, culturally sensitive, and collaborative. Thank you, Cynthia for your dedication and feminine strength.
Sandhya Ganapathy, Assistant Professor, St. Lawrence University, participated in the “Wachakuy: Sacred Birth Way” Birth Training Program, in May 2019.
While we would only begin to skim the surface of Andean knowledge systems and world views during the weeklong course, the lessons were made more impactful by the way Ingar structured the workshop; she essentially enacted the key insights through the activities and organization of the program. For instance, we were introduced to three co-existing planes of existence or reality that are central to an Andean cosmovision – Hanaq pacha (roughly, but not perfectly, translating to “superconscious”), Kay pacha (roughly “conscious”) and Ukhu pacha (roughly “subconscious”).
These three planes coexist in the world and person can enter into and out of them at different points in life including during pregnancy and birth. Ingar led us through different exercises that allowed us to explore, if not fully enter, these different realms as we explored our own sorrows and joys, as well as the mysteries and wonders of birth. In this way, these key elements of Andean cosmologies were made more knowable.
Another foundational element of Andean birthing traditions was the concept of holding space or making space for the birthing person (as opposed to intervening or intruding that is more common in biomedical approaches to birth). Ingar enacted this aspect of Andean birth traditions by helping the participants to hold space for one another as we explored our own life histories while learning about Andean cosmovision.
I came to the program not as a birth worker but as a professor, researcher and mother with scholarly interests in birth and reproductive justice. I don’t know if I will ever have the chance to accompany another through their birth experience. But I have certainly used the lessons from the Wachakuy program in my everyday life, and especially in my teaching.
For further information about both of the above programmes, click here or e-mail Cynthia Ingar: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Medical Anthropology Program: Reproduction, Indigenous Birth & Intercultural Midwifery, Sacred Valley, Cusco PERU (January 2020 – August 2020)
Cynthia Ingar PhD, Peruvian Anthropologist, Women’s Health & Childbirth Educator, and Doula is offering the “Wachakuy Anthropology Program” in the Sacred Valley in Cusco, Peru.
- Experiential Program for (medical) anthropology students focusing on birth and reproduction
- Centred on the Andean birth/midwifery system and the Peruvian political & professional context around birth, anthropology of birth and the politics of reproduction theory & application, intercultural (reproductive) health
- Also includes active participatory methodology, cultural awareness skills and an introduction to intercultural doula full-scope skills.
- Midwifery and medical students interested in these subjects are also welcome.
This “Wachakuy” (to give birth in Quechua) Program is a 24+/32-hour program with a number of flexible sessions/hours.
Depending on the timing, the Program may include site visits (e.g. a visit to a community with a traditional midwife, a visit to the local public health centre where births are attended, a visit with a local intercultural midwife in Cusco, a visit to a local feminine sacred site, etc).
Fees for the Program include Cynthia’s Masters and PhD thesis around birth/reproduction politics in Peru and her publications on the subject, including ‘Birthing in South America’ (specifically on Peru and the Andes).
All sessions are held within the beautiful and breath-taking Andean scenery of the Sacred Valley, in Pisaq, Peru, surrounded by the Apus (Mountain Guardians).
Students must arrange for lodging, transport, and meals, but help can be provided with suggestions/ advice on this, including affordable lodging (around $7 per night) in Pisaq.
The total education fee for the “Wachakuy” Anthro Program is $950, which also supports the Hampi Warmi Initiative – KillaWarmi Project. Spaces are limited to 4 students per Program as it is a personalized program, so if interested, students must confirm their spot at least 2 months in advance of the desired date.
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