On Feb. 27, Salt Lake Community College welcomed attorney and author Estercilia Simanca Pushaina for a discussion about the inequalities the Wayuu indigenous people face from the Colombian government.
Pushaina, who spoke at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus, is of Colombian-Wayuu descent and legally represents the indigenous population.
“The Wayuu are a group of roughly 800,000,” claims Pushaina. The group is based in the Guajira Peninsula area, residing in Colombia and northern Venezuela. Pushaina details battles she has had with the Colombian government over identification complications for Wayuu peoples during election periods and the overall racial injustices placed on these individuals.
“We have a social responsibility to our local people … there is strength in this area,” she states.
Over a Latin-inspired lunch of pupusas, empanadas and rice and beans, Pushaina engaged SLCC students and faculty with a dialogue on her own struggles, like the ‘Born on December 31st’ rhetoric that the Indians faced, and determination to make life better for the Wayuu through short stories and social media presence.
Pushaina is very active on Twitter and often begins her petitions that way.
“Use Twitter! Use social media,” she urges.
The entirety of Pushaina’s presentation was in Spanish, her native tongue. Attendees who don’t speak Spanish were given English translator headsets.
“My students were calling her the modern-day Rosa Parks. She is so inspiring,” says sociology assistant professor Zendina Mostert, who brought some of her students to the event.
Val Sederholm, an adjunct faculty member in SLCC’s history department, says he left the talk with a great appreciation of Pushaina’s life and the Wayuu.
“It was great. It was great to actually see her after hearing so much about her,” he says. “I haven’t read any of her short stories, but I hope to in the future. I came in knowing a little, but I learned much.”
While Pushaina says she has seen progress for the Wayuu indigenous population, she also looks forward to doing more, like opening a law firm so others may be inspired to push for representation and against discrimination.
“If people don’t want to hear me, that’s where I want to speak the loudest,” she says.