An Interview with Guadalupe Pierce, Lecturer in Spanish
By Dr. Michele C. Dávila-Gonçalves
What is now Ecuador formed part of the northern Inca Empire until the Spanish conquest in 1533. Quito became a seat of Spanish colonial government in 1563 and part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada in 1717; it is now the capital city. The territories of the Viceroyalty—New Granada (Colombia), Venezuela, and Quito—gained their independence between 1819 and 1822 and formed a federation known as Gran Colombia. When Quito withdrew in 1830, the traditional name was changed in favor of the “Republic of the Equator.” Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors, but maintained the Galapagos Islands. A border war with Peru that flared in 1995 was resolved in 1999. Although Ecuador marked 25 years of civilian governance in 2004, the period has been marred by political instability. Protests in Quito have contributed to the mid-term ouster of Ecuador’s last three democratically elected Presidents. In September 2008, voters approved a new constitution, Ecuador’s twentieth since gaining independence. (From the CIA Factbook).
Dr. Dávila: What is your maiden name?
Prof. Pierce: Suárez. Pierce is my married name.
Dr. Dávila: When did you come to the United States and why?
Prof. Pierce: First when I was small I came with my parents and lived in Washington D.C. for three years. I did my second, third and fourth grade here in the United States. Then we moved to Quito, where I went to a bilingual school because my parents didn’t want their children to forget English. When I was an adult I worked in the main office of USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and that is where I met my husband, who was working with the Peace Corps. After we got married we moved to Massachusetts, where my husband’s family lived.
Dr. Dávila: What differences did you notice between life in Ecuador and life in the United States?
Prof. Pierce: My husband’s family is Irish Catholic, so in a sense it reminded me of my family because it was very close, and we had the same values. I didn’t feel any cultural shock I think because I had been in the States before and could speak the language, but I missed the hugs and kisses that are so natural in our Hispanic culture. The physical distance was strange to me at first.
Dr. Dávila: Did you always want to be a teacher?
Prof. Pierce: Not at the beginning. When I was a child and played school I always was the teacher but I never really thought of being one. That came when I was already here in Massachusetts and decided to go back to school, thinking about something to do once my children were all grown-up. When I had to choose my field I chose education. It seemed natural. I started to study when my three children were already in school and did my B.A. and M.A. in Spanish, when I re-encountered myself with my maternal language in the Salem public schools. I worked for 13 years in Salem as a second grade teacher after finishing my M.A. in Spanish at Middlebury College.
Dr. Dávila: Do your children speak Spanish?
Prof. Pierce: Yes, I taught them and they studied it in school, although some speak it better than others. They have been to Ecuador many times.
Dr. Dávila: What do you see yourself doing in the next ten years?
Prof. Pierce: I hope to be retired, enjoying my future grandchildren. I also want to travel and spend some time in France to be able to immerse myself in the culture and language so I can practice the French I am learning at present.¦