Last year I had the great pleasure of meeting Judy Blankenship and her husband, Michael Jenkins, at their owner-built, traditional home in Cañar, Ecuador. Little did I know that this introduction, from friends in New Mexico, would lead to what has now become Voces de Cañar. I will admit from the get-go, I’m a synchronicity junkie, enthusiastic to follow what serendipitously emerges. Turns out one of the friends (Lucy Collier) who introduced us, is the niece of John Collier Jr., the famous visual anthropologist whose photographs were part of the Farm Security Administration’s (FSA) documentation of The Great Depression during the late 1930’s and early ’40’s. I was introduced to Collier’s and Russell Lee’s photographic work in the ’90’s when working with said friends on an oral history/video project for the New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts. Their exhibition featured the work of the three FSA photographers working in New Mexico. Their photographs were central to our recordings about the history of the times, as they prompted memories and stories from northern New Mexico elders. Later this would become the origins of an educational curriculum called Drawing from the Well, which I developed with The Museum of New Mexico’s Statewide Services, the Peñasco Independent Schools and other non-profit agencies.
I’m giving you all these details because it relates to what we’ve started here in Cañar and in New York – nearly 30 years later. Working with archival photographs and collecting oral histories shaped my career in media education, curriculum development, radio production and in forming a non-profit called Youth Media Project. Drawing stories from and for ones own community is fundamental to the work of Voces de Cañar. Turns out, on a parallel course, Judy Blankenship, a documentary photographer and author of two books about the people of Cañar, was simultaneously collecting images and recording oral histories of and for the indigenous people of Cañar.
Little did we know when Judy B. invited me last fall to join her collections work, that a network of educators, students and radio broadcasters in New York were in the wings as a complement to the entities Judy B. already knew in Cañar. Hence, links were made, interest affirmed and Voces de Cañar was ignited. The exchange of digital stories about culture, heritage and the impacts of migration are soon to unfold through radio and school programs. Check out: About Us to see who has jumped in, thus far.
Future entries will reflect the impressions and experiences of Voces de Cañar participants.
Special thanks to Greg Malone of Santa Fe, our generous and genius web designer and tech navigator.
Submitted by: Judy Goldberg, Coordinator for Voces de Cañar