While working on my Independent Study Project, I found myself spending many hours helping with social media at the Museo de Arte Indígena. While I had several days when it felt like I was just trying to kill time while fighting intermittent wifi, it created unique connections for me and my project. One of those connections was meeting with a New York Times-affiliated writer, Michael Benanav. He came into the museum a couple times, struggling to set up an interview with the Spanish-speaking and oftentimes chaotic office of ASUR (Anthropologists of the Southern Andes, the organization that manages the museum and several cultural restoration projects). The second time he visited, I stepped in to help translate between my manager and him. He had quite a look of relief when he realized there was a bilingual American working at the museum and asked if I would help translate his interview with the director of ASUR, which I of course accepted.
Coincidentally, that interview fell on my 21st birthday. For a girl who spent a few years determined to become a journalist, it was a gift far more rewarding than the night of drunken stupor typically associated with that birthday. So, I spent the remainder of my birthday helping with that interview and a couple others around the city. At the same time, those interviews, alongside Benanav’s suggestions to me, served as an excellent starting point for me to begin my own research. I explored the relationship between tourism agencies, municipal government, and NGOs in local communities in regards to tourism regulation. Simplistically put, my conclusion was that there is little coordination between tourism agencies and communities or government to protect or preserve local indigenous culture. While there is little tourism at the moment to seriously threaten cultural integrity, any large increase in tourism holds the potential for negative consequences without any coordination to prevent degradation.
Benanav published his article today, which is a great read to get a sense of the region I was working and researching in. I am also grateful for the translation and personal experience I had working with Benanav. Not too many students with a minor in Spanish get to say they helped translate for a New York Times reporter, nonetheless one that could so masterfully capture an experience similar to their own while being humble enough to work with a young college student for his own work.