Ruben Hilari Quispe

Ruben Hilari Quispe

Update, 10.15.08: Rubén is spending the 2008-2009 school year as a teaching intern at Oakwood Friends School. You can read his blog at
Rubén finished his full-time Linguistics studies at UPEA in 2007, where he had studied English and Aymara. He continues to work as an English teacher at Colegio Emmanuel, and supports his Santidad Church with workshops on youth-faith practices of Friends. Rubén has a great rapport with the students, sharing jokes in the classroom.

“It’s always important to give without thought of what you will receive in return. Here, too, we always help out those with less.”

Rubén grew up in Omasuyos on the Altiplano, in a Quaker family,and had a Quaker education. At five he went to a boarding school in Achacachi, with his brother and 400 other students, coming home weekends. Rubén’s parents were farmers who sold animals and produce to pay tuition. There was also educational support from the Walata Chico church and community.

At 15, Rubén moved with his brother to La Paz, where they lived with an uncle. His brother walked to work in El Alto and Rubén helped in their uncle’s store. After Ruben finished his Quaker education in 1998, he and his brother moved to El Alto, where it’s cheaper to live.

While working at the international airport in El Alto, Rubén “realized how necessary English is in this world.” He also discovered a passion for teaching. Rubén enrolled in UPEA with a major in linguistics and Aymara, and was able to continue his study with the aid of a scholarship from BQEF. “My father died the same year that I started university. Brother Bernabé helped me out.”

Rubén’s greatest dream is to be a professor in the university. “I’m praying to become a professor here in El Alto.” Ruben says he’ll always want to work in both the Quaker and public schools.

Now Rubén lives with his brother and mother in a small house in El Alto, his father is deceased. “My brother works full time and makes 450 bolivianos a month (roughly $50), I work a little less than full time but in the schools and make about 600 bolivianos a month.” He notes that when somebody sends $50 from the US, it’s like a month’s expenses for a person. Ruben’s university cost 100 bolivianos each year, not including books, which can be more than 250 bolivianos in a semester.

“We are Aymara; we’re living in the Aymara culture. Before, there wasn’t education for us; it was illegal. I want to translate texts (directly from English) into Aymara, to help create a body of literature in Aymara, to validate our culture…Little by little society is realizing the necessity of including the Aymara culture.”

Rubén says that with a solid grounding in Quaker education, possibilities are opened up for this population. They can enter into society in a new way, enter the political world, and bring change based on Christian principles. He would like to give books to the kids here who don’t have the money to pay for them. ”It’s very nice to be able to give to others, and give freely.” He shares what seems to be the common understanding among Friends here, “You sacrifice, and change will come.”