Intercultural Perspectives in the Huasteca Potosina, Mexico

Image of the Huasteca Potosina Region in Mexico

Intercultural Perspectives in the Huasteca Potosina, Mexico

In this highly unique study abroad program, students will travel to the Huasteca Potosina region of Mexico to explore its history, culture and social traditions through the leadership of local indigenous college students.
Location: Huasteca Potosina, Mexico
Language of Instruction: English
Term: Summer
Program Type: Faculty-led
Open to non-KU Students: Yes
Fulfills KU Core 4.2: No
Fulfills KU Core 5: No

  • Develop personal contacts with indigenous college students and their families in eastern Mexico.
  • Visit the stunning karst landscape with many deep caves, waterfalls, sinkholes, and rivers.
  • Engage in a relatively affordable study abroad program close to home and yet culturally unique from the United States.

Indigenous people occupy the most marginal social position in Latin America.  They have been dispossessed of land, labor, material resources, traditions, memory, and proud identity, while being structurally unable to take advantage of the colonizers’ political economy.  Many can no longer completely rely on their subsistence practices or have the cultural and material know-how to compete in the market economy.  The indigenous Teenek Maya, Nahuatl, and Xiu (Otomí) of the Huasteca Potosina region of eastern Mexico are no exception. 

In this highly unique study abroad, students will travel to the Huasteca Potosina region in state of San Luis Potosí in Mexico to be led on a historical, cultural and social tour by indigenous college students that they themselves have designed.  The indigenous students will explain the meaning of their unique landscape, traditions, and current social conditions from their own perspective, as distinct from the tourism industry.  Activities will include visits to sacred sites such as caves, waterfalls, and mountain peaks, observance of rituals hundreds if not thousands of years old, tours of San Luis Potosí Intercultural University (UICSLP) campuses, traditional Huapango musical performances, forums between KU and UICSLP students about their socio-economic and ethnic circumstances, sampling of traditional indigenous foods, and exploration of small cities that are centers of power in region.  

The Huasteca region of eastern Mexico includes parts of 5 Mexican states and the northern section of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range and piedmont towards the Gulf Coast.  It is named after the Huastec Maya, also known as the Teenek, who still inhabit the region along with indigenous Nahuatls, Otomí (Xiu), and mestizos (Hispanics).  The region has its own particular cultural blend, such as the Huapango music & dance tradition, many types of tamale recipes, and the “flying men” (voladores) ritual.  The Potosina part of the Huasteca is unique for its combination of North American and South American flora and fauna, and its karst landscape with many waterfalls and caves.  The indigenous and poor mestizo population have their own university system with 7 campuses in the Huasteca Potosina.

All students on this program will enroll in one of the following courses for a total of 3 credit hours:

  • LAC 302 / LAC 602 Topics In Latin American Studies
  • ANTH 501  Topics in Sociocultural Anthropology

Four orientation sessions will be held on the KU Lawrence campus and/or via Zoom during the spring 2024 semester.  These sessions are tentatively scheduled for the following dates/times:

  • Tuesday, March 5  (4:30-6:00pm)
  • Monday, March 25  (4:30-6:00pm)
  • Friday, April 19   (4:30-6:00pm)
  • Friday, May 3 (3:00-5:00pm)

Travel to Mexico will take place from Saturday, May 18 - Wednesday, May 29, 2024.

Through the course and international travel, students will:

  • Learn to appreciate the cultures and social realities of the Teenek Maya and Nahuatl of eastern Mexico.
  • Learn about the ecology of the Huasteca Potosina region of eastern Mexico.

Credit is granted by the University of Kansas upon successful completion of the orientation sessions, course and overseas program.

Students on this program will be housed in double or triple occupancy modest hotel rooms.

SAGE is dedicated to creating international engagement opportunities that meet the needs of all our students and providing resources to support you through the process of studying abroad. Study abroad is achievable for students of all identities including our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and students with religious/non-religious viewpoints. Before selecting a program, consider how your identities may impact your experience abroad in unique ways and talk with your Program Coordinator about any program-specific concerns. Students with documented disabilities should discuss any accommodation needs with their Program Coordinator early in the planning process.

Check our Identity Abroad page and resources listed below for information specific to you and other students who may be on your program.

This program is open to advanced undergraduate or graduate students from accredited U.S. colleges or universities with a minimum 2.5 GPA.  Preference will be given to students who have had at least one course in Anthropology, Indigenous Studies, or Latin American & Caribbean Studies.  Because this course is indigenous-led, students must be sensitive to prejudice and discrimination against indigenous people.

Dr. Brent Metz, Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Professor of Anthropology, has conducted ethnographic fieldwork and lived among indigenous Mesoamericans for several decades and has visited the Huasteca Potosina region for official and research purposes five times since 2011.  He also led 8 groups of faculty, schoolteachers, engineers, and students on research and study abroad trips.


Brent Metz, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology