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Latin American Studies Week opens with presentation on mysterious khipus

RELEASED: Sept. 30, 2010

Dr. Frank Salomon

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will kick off its celebration of Latin American Studies Week with a keynote presentation on the famously cryptic khipus of the Inkan Empire. LAS Week will be observed Oct. 4-7 on campus, coinciding with the university's celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month that continues through Oct. 13.

"Written in Knots: An Inka Legacy, A Modern Mission" will be presented by Dr. Frank Salomon from 5:30-7 p.m. Oct. 4 in The Dulany of Davies Center. Salomon, the John V. Murra professor of anthropology at UW-Madison, is an expert on the Andean peoples and the historically significant khipus, a complex series of legible knots formed of string that served as the Inka's written language and are believed to hold the secrets of its civilization. Salomon's award-winning book "The Cord Keepers: Khipus and Cultural Life in a Peruvian Village" was released by Duke University Press in 2004.

a villager with a khipus
A South American villager with a khipu. (Contributed photo)

Khipus were used for record-keeping. While the "code" to unlock the colorful bundles of string has not been deciphered, fieldwork in recent years has revealed that some villages still own collections of khipu made for their own governance. Salomon will explain the unique system of legible knots and talk about his leadership of a recent project to help villagers protect their khipus, a sacred legacy that holds important clues to scholars of the Inka past.

Other events planned for LAS Week include:

Oct. 5 — "Development Issues: Images of Post-Earthquake Haiti and Sustainable Water Purification Systems" will be presented from 3:30-5 p.m. in Room 100, Hibbard Hall. Photographer Mark Aumann will present photos from post-earthquake Haiti, and Jason Pecor, a volunteer with EDGE Outreach, will explore the topic of sustainable water purification systems in Costa Rica and Haiti, where access to safe drinking water is a daily struggle. Unsanitary conditions in the myriad tent cities pose dangerous health hazards for the nearly one million victims who remain homeless. The issue of sustainable housing has many development experts seeing an opportunity to decentralize the overly-populated capital city of Port-au-Prince and rebuild in rural Haiti, which could also enhance the country's food security.

Sustainable water systems are critical to earthquake-ravaged Haiti. (Photo by Mark Aumann)

Precor is a business development manager for Open-Silicon Inc. He first learned how to install and use the McGuire Water Purifier when he traveled with EDGE Outreach on his trip to Costa Rica in 2005. In 2006, he returned to Costa Rica to upgrade an existing purifier system, scout locations for a new installation and train additional teams on purifier use. He continues to promote the clean water activities of EDGE Outreach and provides periodic purifier presentations and demonstrations.

Oct. 6 — "Students Taking Action Abroad" will be presented from 3:30-5 p.m. in Room 100, Hibbard Hall. Members of the UW-Eau Claire student organization Latin American Sustainability, Education and Development will discuss eye-opening study abroad options and show documentary clips of their recent initiatives in Latin America.

LA SED works directly with a small community in Nicaragua and helps provide 42 scholarships for low-income students every year. Projects have included building an herb greenhouse, planting fruit trees, tutoring children, preventing parasites and constructing a pedestrian bridge. Their work in the pueblo of El Fortn is made possible by study abroad students who make personal connections with the community. Among their other activities, LA SED has funded a housing improvement project in Honduras and donated money to an organization that installs water purification systems in Haiti.

Oct. 7 — A Latin American salsa educational presentation and dance instruction will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Tamarack Room of Davies Center. Learn the rhythms and beats of Latin America with members of UW-Eau Claire's Salsa Clara Latin Dance Club.

Latin American Studies Week is sponsored by the UW-Eau Claire Foundation; Office of Multicultural Affairs; College of Arts and Sciences; College of Education and Human Sciences; McIntyre Library; Center for International Education; Office of Research and Sponsored Programs; and the departments of economics, English, foreign languages, geography and anthropology, mathematics, political science and women's studies.

For more information, contact Dr. Analisa De Grave, Latin American Studies program, at 715-836-4546 or



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