Photo courtesy of the National Park Service/Cookie Ballou, Big Bend National Park, TX.

Rio Grande Semester

Stories of Culture, Identity, & Environment Along the Southern Border

A Gap Year Program

Enroll
Duration
71 Days
Description

Trek to the headwaters of the Rio Grande, float sections of the river in New Mexico and Texas, and explore the living intersections of culture, identity, and justice along the southern border. Upcoming semesters and COVID-19.

Spring Dates

Mar 1 - May 10, 2021


Spring Availability

three spaces

Fall Dates

Sep 15 - Nov 23, 2021


Fall Availability

open

Number of Participants

12


Suggested Ages

17-21

Spring Begins In

13 Weeks

Fall Begins In

42 Weeks

Land Cost

$15,960


Estimated Flight Cost

$

San Luis Valley

Taos

El Paso

Big Bend

Albuquerque

Program Overview

Hike, float, listen, and learn about the fluid histories along the Rio Grande.


Program Highlights:

  • Hear stories from communities, cultures, and the land, from pre-Hispanic to early Mexico to present day
  • Explore our own relationship to land and water as we float sections of the Rio Grande around Taos, NM and Big Bend, TX and learn how natural forces have shaped the landscape.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of sustainability and food sovereignty  from cutting edge regenerative agriculture projects in Taos, NM and the San Luis Valley, CO
  • Look critically at US immigration policy, nationalism, and social justice, meeting with organizations at the front-line of immigrant-advocacy work
  • Trek to the headwaters of the Rio Grande  on a multi-day backpacking…

Program Highlights:

  • Hear stories from communities, cultures, and the land, from pre-Hispanic to early Mexico to present day
  • Explore our own relationship to land and water as we float sections of the Rio Grande around Taos, NM and Big Bend, TX and learn how natural forces have shaped the landscape.
  • Gain a deeper understanding of sustainability and food sovereignty  from cutting edge regenerative agriculture projects in Taos, NM and the San Luis Valley, CO
  • Look critically at US immigration policy, nationalism, and social justice, meeting with organizations at the front-line of immigrant-advocacy work
  • Trek to the headwaters of the Rio Grande  on a multi-day backpacking expedition in the Southern Rockies

Divisions between cultures and national borders are constantly changing. Few are more dramatic and multi-layered as that between the United States and Mexico. We often refer to the river as the Rio Grande, but it has many other names such as the Rio Bravo del Norte in México and Tó Baʼáadi in Diné. It currently makes up half of the US southern border, but this wasn’t always the case. Cultures, nations, and shared histories along the river are much older than either the US or Mexico. In only the past 600 years, many of places along the river have been independent nations, colonized by Spain, inherited by Mexico, and then incorporated into the modern US. A deeper investigation of these histories and present realities allows for greater understanding and more engaged advocacy to counteract the political and social narratives that can simplify and polarize border issues. Even today, the US-Mexico border is the most fluid and frequently crossed international border in the world (in both directions), creating constant change and interconnectedness for communities to the north and to the south. 

Throughout this semester we have the opportunity to travel by foot, road, and river through richly diverse landscapes, meet with both ancestral and more recent stewards of the land, and engage issues related to current border tensions. Students will begin the course by connecting with the natural environment at the river’s headwaters in modern-day Colorado to better understand the various ecosystems and communities the river basin supports. We follow the river through farming communities of the San Luis Valley, CO and Taos, NM to learn how the river has sustained agricultural practices for communities past and present. The river continues to meander through the seemingly endless llanuras of New Mexico to the cities of Albuquerque, NM and El Paso, TX where identities combine to shape the complex and rich cultural narratives. We conclude with a final wilderness expedition through Big Bend National Park in Texas as a culmination of interconnected conversations around identity, citizenship, land rights, and social justice. Throughout the semester, we learn about the evolving journey of the Rio Grande and its many lessons for our lives beyond our time together.  

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