Peruvians provide testimonials on behalf of Danielle Kurin and Enmanuel Gomez Choque

Danielle Kurin
Enmanuel Gomez Choque

Since February, I have posted quite a few blog posts detailing my reporting on alleged misconduct by University of California, Santa Barbara archaeologist Danielle Kurin and her ex-husband, Enmanuel Gomez Choque, a Peruvian archaeologist based in Andahuaylas. Between January and March, I asked Kurin four times, by email, to comment on my reporting, but she did not respond. More recently, Kurin and her attorney, David Scher of the Hoyer Law Group, have made some responses to my reporting, which I agreed to post uncut and unedited despite some very negative things they had to say about me.

As I noted on one of these blog posts, earlier this year I was anonymously sent testimonials on behalf of Kurin and Gomez that were signed by two different Peruvian women. I asked the anonymous sender to tell me who they were, in confidence, or at least to authenticate these documents in some way. I got no response, and since I was not sure I had the permission of the letter writers--nor that of individuals named in the letters--I did not publish them. Again, I noted on the blog that I had received them.

Yesterday I received them again from Scher, in a more highly redacted form. Scher vouched for their authenticity and I assume he has permission from the letter writers. I asked Scher to provide some more context for them, since they are dated after UCSB found Gomez and Kurin to have committed misconduct (sexual harassment and retaliation, respectively) on June 14, 2016.

Scher says:

"The authors are native Peruvian women who admire and respect Dr. Kurin because of her work there and her personal relationship with the locals. These witnesses wanted to ensure that the truth was told and therefore prepared these sworn affidavits out of appreciation for Dr. Kurin and concern that she and Mr. Gomez would be treated unfairly.  What is particularly poignant to us is that the affidavits are sworn, voluntary and provided without any motivation other than concern for the subject.  Now, the identities are public as well – we hope their privacy will be respected and that to the extent their live testimony is sought that the legal process is followed.  Whether the statements were used in a Title IX investigation is not something I can answer.  You would need to contact the applicable school’s Title IX office via FOIA in light of confidentiality rules."

The first letter is from Katherine Sencia Huaman, who worked at the office of Tourism and Culture in the summer of 2015 when Kurin and Gomez held their field school. The second one is from Olga Gomez Choque de Vivanco, a registered nurse (I do not know her relationship to Gomez but the family has an extensive presence in Andahuaylas.

I welcome comments on the letters, and am happy to provide them here.

Update: There is a lot of speculation in the comments section below about the relationship between Olga Gomez Choque de Vivanco and Enmanuel Gomez Choque. Kurin's attorney, David Scher, confirms to me this afternoon that they are in fact brother and sister.

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Anonymous said…
Olga is Enmanuel's sister, per the structure of Peruvian surnames ("Gomez" being the paternal family name and "Choque" the maternal family name. A woman adds her husband's surname to her own using de, hence "de Vivanco"). Clearly their familial connection colors her perspective on events.
Anonymous said…
Can someone who has worked in Andahuaylas speak to the identity of these two people? Clearly, Olga must be a sibling of Enmanuel. "Don Diogenes" is Enmanuel's father. The students lived in a house with the Gomez Choque family who have a clear conflict of interest in attesting to the supposedly unassailable behavior of Enmanuel and Danielle. These statements are as credible as Danielle herself--they're not.

Furthermore, there's a notary public on just about every street corner in Peru. Why aren't these notarized? Why isn't there a certified translator (also easily found in Peru)?
Anonymous said…
"No wonder the Title IX office thought these letters were inadmissible as evidence. First of all, they were not notarized. They just have the personal stamps and signatures of the supposed authors. Second of all, who did the translation? Kurin? The writing style, especially in the first letter, is very close to Danielle's. Third of all, I have never seen anyone libating to Pachamama (mother earth) at a dance club, and I am super familiar with the larger area Kurin works in. You libate to actual exposed earth and usually in a communal setting like festivals, weddings, minkas, faenas, or sometimes more casually with a group of friends, but always on actual earth.
I'm pretty sure the drinking to remember/not to forget is straight out of an ethnography written by Thomas Abercrombie (RIP): Others also talked about this in their ethnographies; I think Billie Jean Isbell did in her "To Defend Ourselves." So while it's plausible that the letter writer is only saying something that is true in the Andes, it's highly suspect that the language used is nearly identical to what's published. I personally have never heard any of my Quechua-speaking and Aymara-speaking friends and acquaintances put it in these terms.
I've never heard anyone use the term "huascar" either. I know in the chronicles this term was mentioned to mean drunkard in the context of the civil war between Atahualpa and Huascar, but in all my years in the Andes, I have never heard any Quechua speakers use it. I could be wrong, but I will double-check with my Quechua-speaking friends. If it /is/ used, it's certainly a rare term.[Edit: I now consulted with three native Quechua speakers. They say that 'huascar' is not a term they have heard to refer to drunk. They say that a similar term, 'huasca' is used, but it's not Quechua. It's general Peruvian slang used by people of all different backgrounds. When used in Spanish, you can say "huasca" or "vamos a huasquear" meaning "we are going to get drunk." But it's not "huascar" in any form. Two of the Quechua speakers, who speak the Ayacucho dialect, insist that 'huasca' doesn't even originally come from Quechua. Another Quechua speaker, this time of the Cuzco dialect, said that it's possible 'huasca' comes from the Quechua word for 'rope,' but the term is not generally seen as Quechua but a general Peruvian slang used by everyone, including whites, Quechua speakers, Aymara, and Ashaninka. The Quechua terms for drunk are sinka and machasqa.]
I am also disgusted at the way these letters invoke a racist understanding of highland Peruvian culture, that they are "humble," "innocent," "ignorant of cosmopolitan and gringo customs," etc etc. comes straight out of colonial-era discourses about the "helpless and simple Indian." Their characterizations of the "racist gringas" are so hyperbolic and caricatured and beggars belief. I have seen racism by whites against highland Peruvians, but generally, students who choose to come to highland Peru are respectful of real local customs, not made-up ones like libating to Pachamama at a happenin' dance club (people will slip while dancing!).
Anonymous said…
Kurin has many adoring students who give glowing reviews of her in their evaluations. Narcissistic sociopaths charm lots of people. And they abuse others.
Anonymous said…
One of these character witnesses, perhaps a close relative of Gomez, describes herself as a registered nurse and the archaeological project medic since 2008. She also attests that she does not speak English. Yet, she writes this incident involving one of the American students:
“I was also present the next evening when Dra. Kurin was informed of this scandalous behavior. Dra. Kurin took _____________ downstairs and way from the other students. I do not understand english, but I do know that Dra. Kurin’s tone was calm and regular. _____________ was yelling, and she stamped her foot and pointed her finger in the face of Dra. Kurin and looked and sounded very angry. But she was not crying. She was full of rabidness. My mother, who is unletted and wo was with me, was also scared by the temper of _____________. We know because were about 3 meters away from them, on the first floor of the Field Station. When the conversation was done, _____________ went upstairs. I followed. Upstairs, _____________ to have a tantrum out of nowhere.
It was scandalous. She was screaming and crying and howling. The rest of the Americans came and gave a hug to _____________. I used my celular telephone to call Dra. Kurin who was still on the ground floor to relate what was happening. I asked Dr. Kurin if I should administer a sedative to hysterical _____________ or call a psychologist. Dra. Kurin said to let her be like a squeezed sponge, which in our language means to let her get her tears or frustration out of her body and to give her sedating medacine. I do not know why ____________ had such a extreme reaction and I do not know her motivation to treat anyone with such a lack of respect. Her scandalous behavior was very scary”.

I do not know of any other health professional who would diagnose an emotionally distressed patient (as the students in the project are) with the terms “full of rabidness”, “scandalous behavior”, and “lack of respect”, especially since she herself admits that due to language barriers could not understand the reasons behind the student’s “extreme reaction”. This immediately exposes that she was strongly biased against the students/patients, and therefore a false witness. Also suspect is that her first instinct, without understanding what was actually happening to the patient, was to sedate her!

Anonymous said…
What truly shocks me in those letters is that they immediately reveal how similar were the events of 2015 and 2018… Gomez and colleagues getting the students drunk at a dance club… Gomez getting grubby with the female students… the distressed students confronting Danielle in the field house… Kurin deflecting the blame on the “gringo” students… Oh, and almost forgot the fact that in both cases an external committee found that Gomez Choque sexually harassed students.
This is what known to criminal investigators as M.O.
Anonymous said…
Yeah, truly scary that the project's nurse wanted to sedate a student. This is clearly an individual who is lacking in judgement. It would almost be humorous that Danielle thinks these testimonials absolve her if it wasn't for the fact that these are real events that real students lived through and have had to grapple with for years. I hope the students are healing from these traumas. The fact that Kurin's lawyer was so insistent these letters be publicly shared demonstrates that neither he nor Danielle have any regard for the well-being of the students who are described (read: lied about) here.
Anonymous said…
Scher claims: “What is particularly poignant to us is that the affidavits are sworn, voluntary and provided without any motivation other than concern for the subject”.
The first affidavit is from Katherine Sencia Huaman, an employee at DIRCETUR. The second is from Olga Gomez Choque de Vivanco, a registered nurse.
A commentor in another post had to say this about Gomez:
“Mr. Gomez was named in January 2019 as the Jefe de la Division de Educacion, Turismo, Cultura y Deporte (head of the division of education, tourism, culture and sports) for the Provincial Municipality of Andahuaylas. He was also, as of 2017, the Director Sub Regional de Comercio Exterior y Turismo Andahuaylas - DIRCETUR, Gobierno Regional de Apurimac (the subregional director of exterior commerce and tourism of Andahuaylas for the regional government of Apurimac).”
If this is true, then that would make Sencia Huaman either Gomez’s close colleague or his direct subordinate. If so, her affidavit cannot be considered “without any motivation”.
The nurse is likely a close relative, maybe a sister, of Gomez. If so, her affidavit cannot be considered “without any motivation”.
Don’t make us do your homework for you, Scher.
Anonymous said…
And once again, the inconsistencies start to float like with a clogged toilet. Previously Kurin tried to convince us all that “Mr. Gomez and his entire family are extremely poor... Mr. Gomez and his entire family - men, women and children, multiple generations - sleep all together in one modest adobe-and concrete abode… Mr. Gomez and his entire family sleep on the dirt and slate floors of the actual “family home” (a one room hut) bolstered by some threading to support them (the “bed”), threading made by the family.”
Now we find out that the relative nurse is actually the chief nurse in one of the largest General Hospitals in the Apurimac region. She also lives and practices in a two-story house in Talavera.
And let us not forget how she portrayed Gomez on her UCSB lab webpage:
I have met many poor families in highland Peru. This is not it.
Anonymous said…
Enmanuel Gomez served as the head of International Development at the Universidad Nacional José María Arguedas, where Katherine Sencia Huaman graduated in 2016 in Business Administration. These two go way back.
Anonymous said…
Regarding Balter’s update that the nurse is indeed Gomez’s sister (and Kurin’s sister-in-law at the time of the 2015, 2017, and 2018 incidents), this raises very serious concerns as to the safety of the students in Kurin’s field schools. Particularly, it strongly suggests that the medical attention provided for students did not follow basic professional and ethical standards. As reported by numerous students and even admitted by Kurin herself, these projects were fraught with faculty-student tensions that often ended up in mutual accusations. These animosities would naturally extend to family members, and would accordingly place those students seeking ‘in-house’ medical attention in a precarious position. The hostile tone and dismissive phrasing in the nurse’s letter clearly proves this point. To make things worse, the nurse admits that she does not speak English and therefore had to rely on Kurin’s translation. That means that most students would have had to to convey their medical issues through Kurin, which could put any of them in an extremely uncomfortable if not an unsafe position. The letter of the nurse once again confirms this. In the case of the “hysterical” student (which she diagnosed as “full of rabidness”), the nurse chose to call Kurin on her cellphone for advice. Kurin, at the time, was in the lower floor of the same house but apparently chose not to come up. Her advice was to let the student cry it out “like a squeezed sponge”. Nepotism aside- we are dealing here with a clear case of malpractice, both medical and pedagogical.
Anonymous said…
What that person said. As a field school director myself, I am ashamed that a fellow archaeologist would treat their students like that. I admit that I don’t always get along with every student who joins the project, but I never let that overshadow my primary responsibilities for their health and safety. Even if i could I would never hire family members to treat students, so in case the project’s doctor ASKS ME what to do, I would be able to instantly replace them with someone competent who actually KNOWS what to do.
Anonymous said…
Olga recounts an interesting interaction between the students and Don Diogenes (her father) who seemed also to be the owner of the house. He came by to get payment for rent and other things, and the students were angry. Of course they were! They paid for room and board in advance and assumed that their thousands of dollars in fees would cover their rent. Someone mentioned double dipping in a comment in a different blog post...between the rent for the house owned by the Gomez family, the food prepared by them, the medical care, and who knows what else, this family is swindling these students big time. Add to that the litany of other abuses and it's no wonder they felt powerless and frustrated.
Anonymous said…
Who else is starting to suspect that Kurin’s lawyer is secretly out to frame her?
Anonymous said…
Gomez Choque would, indeed, have needed a bishop's dispensation if he wished to have his marriage recognized by the Catholic Church. But, why bother the bishop when he was on pilgrimage and had many other things to do? The normal procedure would have been to make an appointment with the bishop's office in Abancay.

Did he get a dispensation? If so, one wonders what his status in Holy Mother Church is now that he is a divorced man?

I would like to comment under my own name, but given the reports of retaliation we have read, I am withholding my name to protect the anonymity of other commentators. I do not wish to help Kurin identify them through a process of elimination.
Anonymous said…
Man, i’m learning so much from this case and especially what to do next time i’m accused of endangering my students in a foreign country! First, it’s probably fine to let them get drunk with my grubby-hubby and cronies in seedy bars, as long as i don’t come along and see anything. Then, when these students come forward with grievances of harassment and assault i’ll put my lawyer Sis listening and taking notes on the phone. Just in case I’ll add provost Papa to the call, since he works for the U.S. government and knows what to do with protestors. The more hysterical students i’ll send to my Sis-in-law, who also happens to be the project’s medic and really knows her sedatives. I also have some “personal sedatives” in a small brown bag, so will distribute those to the more complacent students. Then i’ll ask the same reputable project’s medic, who is under my employ and lives with her family in a house I pay for, to write a letter denying that i did anything wrong. Just to make sure i’ll also have it confirmed by reputable town officials, who also happen to be the same cronies who took the students to get drunk at the bar. After i’ll ask my Papa-in-law to kick the students out of the house. I’ll then remind those who still dare to speak out that powerful Papa works for the U.S. government. Then i’ll ask rich Papa to pay for the legal fees when i sue the ones who expose me or deny me promotion. And then, I’ll just do it all over again!
Anonymous said…
Oh, what a nice family. If only Kurin also had a wise old uncle to remind her that with great power comes great responsibility.
Anonymous said…
Uncle Iroh is the uncle we all need to make sure we don’t follow the path of pride, anger, self-importance, destruction, and lust for power. Now that Avatar the Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are available on Netflix, perhaps Kurin could watch these excellent shows and learn about true redemption?
Anonymous said…
Richard Kurin is as much to blame for all this horror by indulging and enabling Danielle’s worst tendencies. He is certainly not hard up for money, with a salary of almost 400k a couple years ago: He clearly will continue to indulge Danielle’s bullying litigiousness. What he doesn’t realize is that with discovery, evidence may come to light about his possible role in pressuring UCSB to first hire Danielle and then to protect her. He may lose his reputation, which is priceless.
Anonymous said…
This cover up goes all the way to the top. The institutional failure involves accomplices and enablers in two large public universities, a major travel abroad operator, and now the Smithsonian. When this is all over, I hope someone will write it all up as non-fiction bestseller and donate the royalties to survivors of sexual abuse.
Anonymous said…
An entitled white woman who uses her privilege to demand her own way at the expense of others while blurting racial slurs at her students? Introducing Dr. Danielle “Karen”.
Anonymous said…
This last comment, calling Dr. Kurin a "Karen" (ie "Dr. Karen"), minimizes the gravity of her behavior. All information posted on this blog indicate that she is a sociopath, a repeated sexual harassment enabler, someone who drew young women into a dangerous situation in a foreign country, and one who is exploiting her family's very powerful position to perpetuate harm.

Furthermore, from information Michael has posted about Dr. Kurin's victims, it appears that Dr. Kurin had a particular problem with middle aged white women who she targeted for not being sufficiently supplicant in her classes. Middle aged white women who are not sufficiently supplicant are exactly the demographic targeted by the Karen meme. It's possible that Dr. Kurin's victims were not all white, but the Title IX information posted indicates that they filed on the basis of gender and age, not race.

It should be said that very few of the people in the position to curtail Danielle Kurin's behavior are women (of any race). Most are men.

The use of the Karen meme on this blog comment thread further harms women who continue to struggle in a sexist society, inside academia, outside academia, and online.

It's disappointing to see that even here, the sexist and ageist Karen meme is being weaponized against women.
Anonymous said…
From UC’s sexual violence and harassment policy (interim), updated 14/8/2020

"B. Policy Coverage
This Policy covers acts of Prohibited Conduct committed by University students,
employees, and third parties (such as Regents, contractors, vendors, visitors,
guests, patients and volunteers), and acts of Prohibited Conduct committed against
students, employees and third parties, when the conduct occurs:
1. on University property;
2. in connection with University employment or in the context of a University
program or activity (including, for example, University-sponsored study abroad,
research, on-line courses, health services, or internship programs); or
3. off University property and outside the context of a University program or activity,
but has continuing adverse effects on—or creates a hostile environment for
students, employees or third parties while on—University property or in any
University program or activity.
Consistent with Section 101.00 of the Policy on Student Conduct and Discipline, if
and as specified in implementing campus regulations, this Policy may cover
additional Prohibited Conduct by students that occurs off campus.
Not every report of Prohibited Conduct will result in a Resolution Process described
in Section V.A.5, even if it is covered by this Policy. Rather, the Title XI Officer will
close some reports after making an initial assessment (see Section V.A.4)."

The updated policy coverage does not seem to be any different than the pre-Title IX changes policy, at least where it comes to off-campus/abroad incidents. Under section (2), UCSB may still claim that Kurin’s 2018 field school was an IFR program and therefore not sanctioned by them. Assuming this will not change soon (note the interim status), the next question is whether the case could fall under (3) “off University property and outside the context of a University program or activity, but has continuing adverse effects on—or creates a hostile environment for students, employees or third parties while on—University property or in any University program or activity.” Any thoughts?
Anonymous said…
In Balter’s August 11 blog post, a commentor linked this interview by Ran Boytner (IFR ex-director).
The following excerpt may be relevant in reference to the above discussion:
06:30: “What was limiting [archaeology field schools] was a) there was no quality controls, because these programs were taking… place off campus, and therefore the universities did no assert very good quality controls... universities are usually self-insured, and during the last two decades they became very concerned about liability issues of things that happened in the field and started to cut off any kind of sponsorship and any kind of responsibility to field schools… The IFR is not self-insured, the IFR is fully insured and therefore we can take a lot of liability. And universities are trying to delegate now liability for any off-campus activities to external organizations who are just filling a niche in the current political, economical, and social market for universities to work with.”
He then goes on to talk about the IFR peer-review process that all field schools are supposedly subjected to. Quality control aside (clearly bollocks considering what IFR knew about Kurin at the time), it may be that UCSB actually opted for her field school to be offered through a third-party operator like the IFR in order to reduce their liability. A corollary is IFR’s liability in this whole story, which is “a lot” as per Boytner’s claim. Those UC policies quoted above were already in place when they allowed Kurin to run her 2017 and 2018 programs (with incidents in both), and as UCLA faculty Wendrich and Vaughn should have known that its coverage would potentially exclude IFR programs.
Anonymous said…
Ironically enough, back when the IFR started, Chip was telling people part of the reason was that offering field schools through UCLA had become too expensive thanks to the insurance required by UC. Now I'm wondering how much of that bump was to cover the cost of defending lawsuits thanks to the actions of his pal Ran Boytner.
Anonymous said…
The recounting of the above explanation offered by Chip is absolutely true.