Culture

A PhD Student Made History By Writing Her Entire Thesis In An Indigenous Peruvian Language

Scholars at Lima’s San Marcos university say it’s the first time a student has written and defended a thesis entirely in a native language. Roxana Quispe Collantes made history when she verbally defended and wrote her thesis in Quechua, a language of the Incas. While Quechua is spoken by 8 million people in the Andes with half of them in Peru, it speaks volumes that this hasn’t happened before at the 468-year-old university, the oldest in the Americas. 

Quispe Collantes studied Peruvian and Latin American literature with a focus on poetry written in Quechua. The United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages program has Peru a part of a global campaign to revive 2,680 indigenous languages at risk of going extinct. Peru is home to 21 of those languages. 

Roxana Quispe Collantes brings Inca culture to her doctoral candidacy.

Quispe Collantes began her presentation with a traditional Inca thanksgiving ceremony. She presented her thesis “Yawar Para” (or blood rain) by using coca leaves and chicha, a corn-based alcoholic beverage in the ritual.

For seven years, the student studied Andrés Alencastre Gutiérrez, a poet who wrote in Quechua, and used the pen name Kilku Warak’aq. For her thesis, she analyzed his mixture of Andrean traditions and Catholicism. 

“I’ve always wanted to study in Quechua, in my original language,” she told the Observer

Quispe Collantes traveled to highland communities in the Canas to confirm the definitions of words in the Collao dialect of Quechua used in the Cusco region. 

“I needed to travel to the high provinces of Canas to achieve this translation and the meaning of toponyms that I couldn’t find anywhere,” she said. “I asked my parents, my grandparents and teachers, and [it didn’t prove fruitful].”

Quechua entering the academic discourse can help preserve it. 

“Quechua doesn’t lack the vocabulary for an academic language. Today many people mix the language with Spanish,” she said. “I hope my example will help to revalue the language again and encourage young people, especially women, to follow my path. It’s very important that we keep on rescuing our original language.”

Her doctoral adviser Gonzo Espino told The Guardian he believes Quispe Collantes’ thesis was a symbolic gesture. 

“[The language] represented the most humble people in this part of the world: the Andeans, who were once called ‘Indians’. Their language and culture has been vindicated,” he said. 

It should go without saying but the doctoral candidate received top marks on her project.

Quechua is the most widely spoken indigenous language in South America. 

The oldest written records of Quechua were in 1560 in Grammatica o arte de la lengua general de los indios de los reynos del Perú by Domingo de Santo, a missionary who learned and wrote the language. Before the expansion of the Inca Empire, Quechua spread across the central Andes. The language took a different shape in the Cusco region where it was influenced by neighboring languages like Aymara. Thus, today there is a wide range of dialects of Quechua as it evolved in different areas. 

In the 16th century, the Inca Empire designated Quechua as their official language following the Spanish conquest of Peru. Many missionaries and members of the Catholic Church learned Quechua so that they could evangelize Indigenous folks. 

Quispe Collantes grew up speaking the language with her parents and grandparents in the Acomayo district of Cusco. Quechua today is often mixed with Spanish and she hopes that “Yawar Para” will inspire others to revisit the original form. 

Peru takes Quechua to the mainstream. 

Under the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages campaign, this year, Peru began the official registration of names in its 48 indigenous languages.

The U.N. launched its initiative to preserve indigenous languages in 2019 after the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues determined that, “40 percent of the estimated 6,700 languages spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing. The fact that most of these are indigenous languages puts the cultures and knowledge systems to which they belong at risk.”

According to the Guardian, for years, Peruvian registrars refused to recognize indigenous names on public records. They would then force indigenous people to register Hispanic or English-sounding names on government forms while keeping their real names at home. 

“Many registrars tended not to register indigenous names, so parents felt the name they had chosen wasn’t valued,” said Danny Santa María, assistant manager of academic research at Reniec. “We want to promote the use of indigenous names and recognize the proper way to write them on birth certificates and ID documents.”

In 2016, Peru began airings its first news broadcast in Quechua and other native languages, ushering into the mainstream. 

“My greatest wish is for Quechua to become a necessity once again. Only by speaking it can we revive it,” Quispe Collantes said.

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Peruvian Rocker Diana Flores Goes Disco With New Single “Desaparecer”

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Peruvian Rocker Diana Flores Goes Disco With New Single “Desaparecer”

Peruvian indie rocker Diana Flores is marking a new phase in her career with “Desaparecer.” The former Baby Steps frontwoman has gone solo with the disco-influenced single.

Diana was originally a rocker in the band Baby Steps.

Flores is most known as the frontwoman of bands like Kasama and Baby Steps in Peru. Both bands were part of the country’s indie rock wave. In Baby Steps, the Lima native shredded on the guitar. Baby Steps’ music was equally raucous and ethereal like in “Molly.”

The COVID-19 quarantine inspired Diana to push herself as a solo artist.

Antonella Morelli

While in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, Flores discovered that she could make music on her own. She also pushed herself to “step out of [her] comfort zone” and tackle new sounds. Flores’ debut solo single “Desaparecer” was produced by Marshall Did It Again, who previously worked with Lil Mosey and Jowell of Jowell y Randy.

“2020 turned out to be one of my most creative years, not just in music, but in general,” Flores said in a statement. “Spending time with myself without feeling external pressure and evaluating my strengths have made this project off to the best start. Not only do I feel safe with the result of ‘Desaparecer’ but happy to finally be able to experiment with other genres.”

“Desaparecer” is a disco-pop dream en español.

After disco-pop gripped the globe last year thanks to The Weeknd and Dua Lipa, Flores followed their lead with “Desaparecer.” In the sleek and sexy track, she sings about getting lost with a lover on the dance floor. Her rock star edge is still intact with an incredible guitar solo. The dazzling “Desaparecer” hopefully leads to more disco escapism that we desperately need in Spanish.

Flores also noted that the song was her way of coping with last year’s political strife in Peru. Massive protests happened following the removal of President Martín Vizcarra. The shocking move was seen as a coup by many. Two protesters were killed in a clash in November and Vizcarra’s replacement Manuel Merino resigned after five days in office.

“‘Desaparecer’ was born after a very strong anxiety crisis due to everything that was happening last year in the country,” Flores added.

UPDATE: The music video is here.

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Read: Dominican Duo Martox is Keeping Latin Alternative Music Alive with “Mente”

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Peruvian Woman Wins Battle Over Right To Die Request

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Peruvian Woman Wins Battle Over Right To Die Request

No doubt about it, women have struggled more than anyone to convince the world that the right to make decisions about their bodies is theirs. Ana Estrada, a woman currently confined to her bed, knows this truth. After spending five years of attempting to convince Peruvian officials that she has what’s best for herself in mind, she has finally made a breakthrough.

Recently, Estrada was able to convince Peruvian officials to make a historic decision, regarding her own assisted death.

Euthanasia is largely illegal in the Roman Catholic country of Peru, but Estrada has been granted an exception.

Psychologist Ana Estrada, who has suffered from incurable and progressive polio since the age of 12, poses for pictures at her house in Lima, on February 15, 2020. – A Peruvian court on February 25, 2021 ordered the government to respect the wishes of Estrada to be allowed to die, a rare allowance for euthanasia in largely Catholic Latin America. (Photo by Angela PONCE / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA PONCE/AFP via Getty Images)

Euthanasia is a practice that is illegal in many countries across the globe including Peru where access to abortion and same-sex marriage are also banned. Still, Estrada made a decision for herself to commit to a five-year legal battle after she decided to end her own life “when the time comes.”

Recently, Peru’s government ruled not to appeal a court ruling which recognized her right to “a dignified death.”

“It is an individual case, but I hope it serves as a precedent,” Estrada, 44, explained to Reuters in a recent interview. “I think it is an achievement not only of mine, not only of my cause but also an achievement of law and justice in Peru.”

Estrada, who is a psychologist, has lived with the rare disease called polymyositis for three decades.

The painful disease progressively attacks her muscles and has resulted in her need to breathe with a respirator most of the time. According to NBC, a court ruling from last week granted that state health insurer EsSalud to provide “all conditions” needed for Estrada’s euthanasia. The court also ruled that the event must occur within 10 business days of the date that she decides to end her life. According to NBC, “EsSalud said a statement it would comply with the ruling and form medical commissions to develop a protocol for such cases. The court ruling also cleared anyone assisting Estrada in her death from facing charges, although local law still prohibits anyone from helping people to die.”

Estrada is the author of the blog “Ana seeks dignified death” which she began writing in 2016. In an interview with Reuters, she explained that she made the decision to end her life when she realized she was no longer able to write.

“My body is failing, but my mind and my spirit are happy,” she explained. “I want the last moment of my life to continue like this, in freedom, with peace, tranquility, and autonomy. I want to be remembered like that.”

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