International Studies & Programs


Embracing Heritage:

Diana Cisneros' Journey with the FLAS Fellowship

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Published: Monday, 15 Apr 2024 Author: CLACS

Diana Cisneros in Guatemala

Diana Cisneros' story is one of determination, resilience, and a deep-seated commitment to preserving Indigenous languages and cultures. After receiving a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship from CLACS, she embarked on a journey to Guatemala to study K'iche', a language deeply rooted in her ancestral heritage. As she completes her degree in Linguistics at Michigan State University, Diana plans to leverage her knowledge to continue the vital work of language revitalization in her Indigenous community.

Indigenous textile from Guatemala
Picture taken by Diana Cisneros of indigenous textile from Guatemala 

The FLAS fellowship provided Diana with a chance to reclaim her linguistic heritage. This fellowship funds immersive studies in a language for at least 6 weeks. The FLAS award enabled Diana to fully engage in K'iche' studies in Guatemala, an opportunity she had never imagined would be possible. "It was challenging to learn K'iche', but every difficulty was worth it when I was able to communicate with the K'iche' community," she emphasizes. Despite the complexity of the language, her determination to master K'iche' remains unwavering, driven by her desire to continue studying and teaching the language.

For Diana, preserving language is synonymous with safeguarding culture. As a Linguistics major, she recognizes the intrinsic link between language, identity, and resistance to colonialism. Learning from native K'iche' speakers has provided her with invaluable insights into her community's customs, traditions, and way of life. Diana emphasizes the importance of preserving sacred knowledge, songs, stories, and ceremonies—a testament to the richness of indigenous heritage. "It is about preserving ways of life," Diana asserts, highlighting the multifaceted importance of language revitalization efforts.

Diana Cisneros teaching K'iche' in Guatemala
 Writing "Thank you" in many languages during  Guatemala visit

Central to Diana's journey is her profound respect and admiration for her elders. "My elders inspire me and are my biggest motivation," Diana reflects. "I admire and respect the way that, although I am far from them, they still are passionate about transmitting our language and culture to me." Inspired by their resilience, Diana aspires to follow in their footsteps, becoming a custodian of indigenous knowledge. Currently, Diana serves as a K'iche and Poqomam language interpreter for medical and legal services, showcasing her dedication to bridging linguistic and cultural gaps in her community.

Diana's transformative experience with the FLAS fellowship has inspired her to pursue her dream of becoming a K'iche language teacher, furthering her commitment to language revitalization and cultural preservation.