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.
Hike, float, listen, and learn about the fluid histories along the Rio Grande.
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.
Click on the gallery below to browse photos, videos and quotes from our participants and instructors.
Our instructors have mastered the tedious balance of both supporting us, and pushing us out of our comfort zones.Caroline Dragons Student
I was looking for experiences that would challenge me; I was looking for a year that demanded reflection, cultural exploration and personal development. This gap year exceeded every one of those hopes.Zoe Dragons Student
I knew I wanted to take a gap year to gain more perspective and form my own ideas of the world, but I never thought that I would find new families in small cities or villages nor did I think that my value for the world and concept of community would ever become so large and so important, and that is because of this trip.