September 18, 2002

Students Get Visit From Colombian Storyteller

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The Latin American Studies Program Luncheon Seminar Series welcomed storyteller Carolina Rueda for a lecture yesterday entitled, “The Art of Story-Telling in Colombia,” in Uris Hall.

Rueda is a founding member of the Movement of Storytelling in Colombia, an organization whose mission is to promote Colombian culture through the art of telling stories.

Caught on Video

Videotapes of Rueda telling her stories are used in Cornell’s advanced Spanish language classes, according to Prof. Elvira Sanchez-Blake, Spanish literature.

In one course, Spanish 219, students must watch one of Rueda’s videos each week, and every week the vocabulary and content of the story become more difficult.

“The students have to listen, see the video and figure the stories out,” Sanchez-Blake explained.

Story Spreading

Rueda will be visiting different Spanish classes this week to discuss her methods and to tell stories.

In her lecture yesterday, translated by Mary Jo Dudley, associate director of Latin American studies, Rueda spoke about the relationship between people and stories.

“For me, stories are living creatures,” said Rueda.

According to Rueda, stories can develop a life of their own and take on different personalities.

“Sometimes, there are stories that are friendly, and sometimes stories take control of the situation. Stories have a magical personality,” Rueda said.

“There are a couple of things that ruin a story: if you tell a story badly, or worse, if you don’t tell it at all,” she added.

Rueda believes that stories explain life through symbols, and are able to put in plain words concepts that are intangible and complex.

She also spoke about how stories affect us when we hear them.

“Society has taught us to protect ourselves. Once you can get people to open up [to your stories], then you can transform their lives,” Rueda said.

Having traveled all over North and South America, Rueda offered insight into the cultural differences between the countries she has visited.

“Generally, you find the same kind of people with slightly different cultures, but with the same kinds of problems. For a storyteller like myself to encounter these people is like to re-encounter the same stories over and over again,” Rueda said.

According to Rueda, the audiences in various countries differ, so that in one country a story will be very well received but in another country it may generate no response at all.

Another challenge to her storytelling throughout Spanish-speaking nations has been adapting to the different dialects used in those countries.

Rueda ended the presentation by discussing her efforts to create a school in Bogot