Dr. Ann Lutterman-Aguilar: Mexican Women Fan the Flames of Hope

Dr. Ann Lutterman-Aguilar spoke with approximately 150 people in San Miguel de Allende on International Women’s Day on Sunday, March 8.  She was a guest of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
Ann’s talk was entitled “Mexican Women Fan the Flames of Hope.” She talked about the variety of challenges faced by Mexican women, including poverty, unequal access to education, domestic violence, sexual assault, death from illegal abortions, and feminicide.  However, her primary focus was on the hope that can be found among both secular and religious groups within Mexico that are working on all of these issues.
In a country where conservative elements of the Catholic church have had a huge influence on silencing progressive women’s voices, Ann argued that it is especially important to recognize the Catholic feminist groups that are actively organizing on women’s issues, often challenging the hierarchy of the church.  She provided quotes and examples from Mexican women and groups who are using feminist liberation theologies in their struggles. All of them are individuals and groups who have spoken with Augsburg’s CGEE short-term, summer, and semester programs.
The talk was very well received, and Ann was particularly delighted that one of her favorite authors, Sandra Cisneros, was in attendance.  Sandra’s readings are assigned in many CGEE courses!  Ann was incredible honored to speak with Sandra after her presentation.


Staff and Faculty Spotlight: Ann Lutterman-Aguilar

Name: Ann Lutterman-Aguilar

Position/Title: CGE-Mexico Site Director and Instructor

Primary duties:  Teaching Religion and Women’s Studies; leading short-term programs, including courses in Cuba; overseeing the administration of the Mexico site, helping to design new educational programs and regularly developing and maintaining contact with potential guest speakers in Mexico.

In what year did you start with CGE?: 1993 (21 years ago)

Share your educational and work history: I received my doctorate in International Feminist Theologies from the San Francisco Theological Seminary (UC-Berkeley) and earned my M.Div. with a focus on Liberation Theologies from Yale Divinity School, as well as my BA in Peace and Global Studies from Earlham College.  I also completed a certificate program in Intercultural Communication.  Prior to joining Augsburg’s CGE-Mexico team in 1993, I worked in the United Campus Ministry at Penn State University and in a refugee camp in El Salvador during the civil war  I have also worked as a volunteer with a wide range of non-profits advocating peace, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and human rights in general.

Where are you from?: I was born in Wisconsin and then raised in the Washington, DC area with one year in California as a child.  After college, I lived in DC, El Salvador, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.  I then moved to Mexico, where I became an immigrant. I am now a dual citizen of the US and Mexico.

Most rewarding part of your work with CGE:  I love working with CGE, which is why I have stayed so long! The most rewarding part of the work is helping to bridge diverse cultures and world views. I feel honored and blessed to help introduce and interpret guest speakers who are leaders in their own communities and/or professions and to assist in the educational transformation of travel seminar participants and students.  I feel great when I see students’ positive reactions to guest speakers who represent minority voices that often go unheard.  I love hearing from students years after their experiences in Mexico or Cuba because almost everyone is doing very exciting things to make this world a better place.  I especially love it when former students come back to Mexico to visit and bring partners and children.  I also love hearing from Mexican host families and speakers about how much they appreciate their experiences with our students.

Most challenging part of your work with CGE:  I think the biggest challenges are financial: I wish we had even more scholarships so that the experiences could be less expensive and more people could participate.  I also wish that the U.S. State Department did not have a travel warning against Mexico because many colleges currently do not allow their students to study in Mexico.

While all CGE visits and resource people are important and valuable, are there any particular stories/encounters that are particularly poignant for you personally or for our participants?:  It is very hard to pinpoint just one or two of the many inspiring people or groups who often talk to our groups.  One of my favorite experiences is going to CIVAC (the industrial park in Cuernavaca) to have a huge, nutritious and delicious Mexican buffet lunch made by the women’s liberation theology-based group Luz y Libertad (Light and Liberty).  Before lunch they talk about the work they do – teaching economically poor women how to make inexpensive, nutritious meals, including lots of vegetarian food made with soy; teaching arts and crafts that women can sell in order to become more economically independent; and facilitating women’s self-esteem workshops. After our conversations, we celebrate with an amazing meal in which we get to taste almost al the dishes that they teach women to make.  They also teach desert-making so that women can sell desserts.  Yum!

Hobbies/personal interests:  I love to travel, read, play piano, sing, hike, and bike.  I loved working with Augsburg Exercise Science Professor Tony Clapp on two mountain-climbing trips in Mexico, as well as helping to arrange for another travel seminar to bike in Mexico.

Where is your favorite place to travel and/or what is your dream destination for the future?:  I love traveling within Mexico, as there are so many diverse places.  My dream destinations for the future are Tierra del Fuego in South America, Alaska, and China, among others.

Staff/Faculty Spotlight – Fidel Xinico Tum

Happy New Year!

As we enter into 2015, I am reminded – again – of the years of commitment many CGE staff members have made (12 years on average).  This longevity is a benefit for host communities and our students/participants.

My 2015 resolution is to do a better job of highlighting our staff members and sharing their stories.  First up is Fidel Xinico, CGE’s program coordinator in Guatemala.  Fidel shared a few thoughts to the following questions:

In what year did you start with CGE?  1993

Can you tell our blog readers a bit about your life, personal or professional? I am a Guatemalan citizen of the Cakchiquel Maya ethnic group. In 1975-1979, I studied at the Catholic High School San Jose Seminary in Sololá.  In 1980-1982, I studied at Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala City, where I received a B.A. in Secondary Education and Philosophy. In 1984, I attended an ELS program at Hamline University in Minnesota.  Also, in 1984, I  received a scholarship from the New Ulm Dioceses of Minnesota to study at St. Paul Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in where I graduated with a M. Div. in 1988.

In the past, I have worked with the San Lucas Tolimán Parish and as a teacher.

I mostly work in Guatemala, but I have also led seminars in  Mexico City, Chiapas, Cuba, Bolivia, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

What is the most rewarding part of your work with CGE: Being aware of the social-economic reality of my country and other countries in the world.

Are there any particular stories/encounters from resource people/speakers that are poignant for you personally or for our participants?  Participation in a Mayan ceremony has been a key component of programming in Guatemala. It is an opportunity for participants to access the heart of Mayan culture, the majority of population.

Hobbies/personal interests: Travel, soccer, movies

Where is your favorite place to travel and/or what is your dream destination for the future?  My favorite places to travel are Bolivia and Peru. My dream destination for the future is Europe.

Thank you Fidel, for your 22 years of service to CGE and Augsburg College!