A group of CSU Monterey Bay students are spending June in Leon, Spain. Under the direction of Dr. Juan Jose Gutierrez, they are collecting and analyzing data, and getting service learning experience.

Dr. Gutierrez and students in the ethnographic research summer schoolBrianna Skinner, Maria Andrea Cervantes, Yocelin Ruiz, Reyna Flores, Karina Gomez, Maria Rivera, Guddi Ramsaran, Llaritza Rodriguez and Susan Dyar are taking part in the ethnographic field research summer school sponsored by the Division of Social, Behavioral and Global Studies and CSUMB’s Office of International Programs.

“Being drawn into a foreign culture the way we are in this program is the best way to learn about the history, local architecture, nature and dreams of other people,” Ruiz said.

During their stay, the students learn and apply basic methods of ethnographic data collection to gain a deeper understanding of the life and customs of rural communities in the province of Leon. Using techniques such as mapping, interviewing, genealogical studies and observation, students explore the past and present of these communities, which are still struggling with the collapse of the local mining industry and the downturn of the Spanish economy.

map of Spain“The people are welcoming – not at first, as they seem to have a hard time opening up, but then they are helpful and welcoming,” Rivera said.

As for the service learning part of their stay, the students are helping the local chapter of the Red Cross in a variety of ways. Visiting villages to check the monitoring system the Red Cross has installed in the homes of senior citizens is their most important contribution. Dr. Gutierrez explained that because of the depopulation of the area, the Red Cross provides support for older people living on their own.

“. . . I particularly like the house visits with the elderly people of the communities to check the communication devices the Red Cross has installed in their homes,” Flores said. “The last time I went the couple we visited invited us to sit down, learn about the history of the community and see the things they have preserved from long ago.”

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Photo courtesy of Dr. Gutierrez

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Student Susan Dyar notes on the group's Facebook page that she was able to find vegan-friendly food. "They even have artichokes that rival the Central Coast of California," she said in her post.