Diego Carrasco Espinosa

Ashoka Fellow
Quito, Ecuador
Fellow Since 1998


This profile was prepared when Diego Carrasco Espinosa was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Diego Carrasco believes that using and appreciating traditional art forms can create a cohesive sense of identity and increase self-esteem among indigenous and rural groups, enabling them to participate more actively in the political and social decision-making processes that shape the development of their communities. The recuperation of traditional art also provides an economic opportunity for communities to market their creative products. Therefore, Diego has designed a traditional native art school that promotes civic participation, cultural identity, and economic opportunities for indigenous and rural communities in Ecuador. The school is staffed by a multi-disciplinary group of academics, both mestizo (mixed-race) and indigenous community leaders, and respected artisans. The staff conducts research on traditional artistic forms and indigenous cultural practices and travels to various rural communities to teach traditional methods of pottery, socio-cultural performance, painting, and other arts. They advocate innovations like mixing traditional art forms with new methods to create new and marketable products. With Diego's supervision, the academics and indigenous community members work together to create the curriculum, teach classes, and develop channels for distributing the products participants make. The educational model will become part of the curriculum at Ashoka Fellow Máximo Cuji's University of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazons.
Diego's school also represents an alternative educational model in which the quality of the end products and creative expression is given more importance than the quantity of hours spent in the classroom. Students's individual paths of instruction, therefore, will be determined by their personal capabilities in each field. Still, the school strengthens the community because students of all levels work together and learn from each other. The training focuses on indigenous cultural identity as a source of pride. Diego will use this strengthened identity to promote participation in electoral, social, and economic processes, and ensure a significant role for indigenous and rural communities in Ecuador in the new millenium.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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