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.

Isabela Merced Is Making a Seamless Transition From Child Star to Pop Star with Her New Single “Papi”

Entertainment

Isabela Merced Is Making a Seamless Transition From Child Star to Pop Star with Her New Single “Papi”

isabelamerced / Instagram

Say goodbye to Dora the Explorer–at least for now. Isabela Merced, formerly known as Isabela Moner, has reinvented herself from child star to bonafide pop singer. On Wednesday, Merced debuted the music video for her new single “Papi”, a girl-power anthem that’s inspired by “salsa, reggaeton, cumbia, and bachata”. According to Merced, she hopes the song will get the message across to womanizing men that they should “treat ladies with the respect they deserve”.

The new music video is impressive not only because it shows a more grown-up version of Merced (who we’ve seen since her Nickelodeon days) but also because it celebrates her Peruvian culture. In the video, we see Merced dressed in both American and Peruvian-style clothes, dancing to choreography that is reminiscent of stand American hip-hop moves as well as the traditional Peruvian dance known as the Marinera. Merced, for her part, is proud of the aesthetic her newest music video embodies: “I want to introduce everyone to the rich culture of my family’s heritage,” she said in a recent interview with Teen Vogue.

Credit: @idolator/Twitter

The transformation from Nickelodeon actor to superstar in the making was arguably kickstarted with Isabela’s decision to change her last name from “Moner” to “Merced”.

After all, 2019 has been a very big year for Merced. Not only did she star in the blockbuster film “Dora and the Lost City of Gold”, but she also revealed that her mother has been  privately battling breast cancer. According to Merced, the decision to change her last name came from the desire to honor family–especially her Peruvian heritage. The name Merced comes from her late grandmother, Yolanda Merced Salazar Pittman. “I believe some force, throughout all these years, has been giving my mom the strength and determination to guide me,” she told Refinery29. “I feel as though if that guardian angel would be anyone, it would be my grandma.”

So, while some child actors struggle to make the transition from child entertainer to serious adult actor, Merced makes the entire process look easy. While the music video for “Papi” has its sultry moments, it doesn’t seem to be trying too hard to prove anything. Yes, there’s a love interest who makes an appearance in the video–but the entire song isn’t just devoted to a man. “’Papi’ is empowering to girls. [It] has sass and confidence,” she says. With lyrics like “Or did I forget to mention?/Don’t like frivolous affection/I don’t want it on the first date or third date…I’m never gonna call you papi/Even if it makes you happy,” the song celebrates to independent women of the world who refuse to change themselves to make a man happy. 

Credit: @playintoit/Twitter

According to Merced, the bilingual bop is just the beginning of her exploring the world of Spanish-language music. 

Merced, who was born to a Peruvian mother and a white American father, has previously been candid about growing up bilingual in a multicultural household. “I want my music to represent who I am…I grew up with a white dad and a Latinx mom, who was an immigrant. That is who I am. It’s okay to be a mix…Us mixed kids have a place in this society, and Spanglish songs do as well,” she told Refinery29.

It’s refreshing to see such representation for multicultural Latinos who grew up in a multi-racial family. The reality is, many Latinos feel equally comfortable speaking two languages, especially if one parent is non-Latino. According to the Pew Center for research, almost 7% of Americans identify as mixed-race, and that number will continue to grow. In other words: Isabela Merced is definitely onto something.

Credit: @Z100NewYork/Twitter

Of course, Merced’s fans have been going crazy on Twitter over her Latina-and-proud music video.

Like Christina Aguilera before her, this child star is embracing all aspects of her identity and people are pumped.

Peruvians are 100% here for Merced showing some love for their country:

It’s always exciting to see your culture recognized in the media.

This Peruvian sees the music video as a beautiful “tribute”:

You can definitely feel the love that went into the making of this music video purely from its attention to detail. 

Many people are praising “Papi” for supporting bilingual and multiracial representation:

A lot of people don’t recognize that there’s no one “right” way to be Latinx. For many Latinos in America, Spanglish is a way of life. 

Of course, there are also the stans who are just in awe of Isabela Merced’s raw talent:

Seriously, is there anything this girl can’t do? We’ll wait.

Husband Is Forced To Carry His 81-Year-Old Wife Six Hours To Collect Her Pension Because The Government Has Failed Them

Things That Matter

Husband Is Forced To Carry His 81-Year-Old Wife Six Hours To Collect Her Pension Because The Government Has Failed Them

La Libertad

Sometimes we read stories on the Internet that reveal the best and the worst of humanity. Such a case happened in Peru, a country that, like most places in Latin America, presents disgusting socioeconomic inequality.

Yes, you have the high-end restaurants in Lima that are ranked as some of the best in the world and are over $100 for a tasting menu, but you also have the rural indigenous populations living in poverty. For decades, indigenous Peruvians have been dealt a terrible hand and regardless of who sits in government (and Peru has gone through everything, from neoliberal bullies to even a president of indigenous origin), they are often forgotten. 

A recent story brought to light the precarious situation in which millions of Peruvians (and Latin Americans) are forced to do the impossible to make ends meet. 

She is 81-years-old, he is 77-years-old, and they are alone in the world, so he had to carry his sick wife so she could collect her pension.

Peruvian social media was recently shocked by the story of Ricardo Campos Haro and his sick wife, Victoria Vega Medina. Every two months, the couple takes a perilous three hour journey so Victoria can collect her pension. He carries his wife using a large cloth and keeping the balance with a cane. Ricardo believes that a bus ride would be detrimental to his wife’s health.

In an interview, the man said that if there is a car crash his wife might not survive it and that when she travels on a vehicle she gets a terrible nausea that cannot be controlled with medicine. Then there is a three hour journey back home. The pension amounts to 250 Peruvian soles, which is roughly $75 USD. Yes, you read that right. Next time you have a #firstworldproblem remember this figure. Most of the world’s population lives on that or less. 

This story isn’t “sweet”: it is an indication that there is something seriously wrong with the system.

Ricardo and Victoria travel from the town of Queros to Tayabamba, the capital city of the province of Pataz. Some in social media romanticized this story as an example of eternal love, of the real commitment of a marriage en la salud y en la enfermedad. But the fact is that no one should have to endure this kind of pain just to survive. There is something wrong with a system that makes people risk their lives and shed any ounce of dignity for a government allowance that is barely enough to get by. There are a little over 3 million senior citizens in Peru (over 60), which represents roughly 10% of the population. 

Once Ricardo became famous online, he was granted a power of attorney to collect his wife’s pension. 

After their case became viral on social media and was broadcast on news channels, the director of the Pension 65 program, of which Victoria is a beneficiary, provided Ricardo with a power of attorney to collect his wife’s pension by himself. In an interview, he stated that he had tried to sort out the paperwork but it was not possible for him to work within the time frame that the office demanded. There also needs to be better information programs for older folks to understand bureaucratic processes, particularly if they live in a precarious situation. 

This seems like a happy ending, but it is far from ideal.

 Credit: YouTube. Diario El Comercio videos

Ricardo himself is vulnerable, an elderly citizen who should be treated with more respect and dignity. He is an elder, caray! In an interview, he said that his own body “is completely falling apart”. The mountain area of La Libertad (quite an ironic name, meaning Freedom) in Peru’s Northwest is one of the prime examples of Latin American inequality. Many of the older folk that need to collect their checks also face adversity and are impaired when it comes to freedom of movement.

But the story triggered online discussions around the availability of social programs to the dispossessed.

We like this user’s take on the situation: people are citizens, and those who are poor need much more help. She also pointed out that far from being the exception, seeing elderly people travelling great distances to collect their checks is the norm. It is also common to see long queues in the state owned bank on paydays. There are over 500,000 senior citizens in the program. Other users asked if this is what the Peruvian government judges as justice when it comes to aid programs. According to census data, 21.7% of the Peruvian population lives in poverty. In rural mountain areas, however, the figure reaches 48%.