Quechua in Cusco

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Hello from Cusco, Peru! My name is Liz, I am a second year MA student in CLACS. I am here in Cusco studying intensive Quechua. In addition to studying Quechua during my first year at NYU, I have also been researching constitutional reform and indigenous activism in Ecuador. I am particularly interested in the acknowledgment of cultural and territorial rights of indigenous peoples in Ecuador’s 1998 and 2008 constitutions. My experience learning Quechua has inspired me to further explore the legal and philosophical debates surrounding the inclusion of cultural rights in recent Andean constitutions.
Even though I have been studying Quechua for a year, the first few weeks of class have been extremely challenging. Everyday we have grammar class for four hours and twice a week we have conversation class for two hours. While the intensity of the course has been extremely helpful, I found it slightly overwhelming at first. I´m finally feeling more comfortable with the pace of the class. I am also living with a family here in Cusco. Technically, there is only one Quechua speaker in the household, Maria Adelma, the grandmother. It has been interesting to observe the multiple levels of Quechua ´proficiency´ in Cusco. For example, Eloy, the father in my family, can understand everything in Quechua but has trouble speaking. Eskarleth, Eloy´s wife, is a science teacher in a local high school and often communicates with her students in Quechua but is reluctant to call herself a Quechua speaker. Maria Adelma, however, speaks proudly in Quechua and laments the fact that her children resisted learning the language. I have heard other people here in Cusco describe similar experiences with Quechua. In this sense, it´s been interesting to observe the range of reactions to my clumsy attempts to speak Quechua; everything from uncontrollable laughter, patient understanding, to outright resistance. But, as my favorite saying in Quechua goes ´pisi pisimanta´, with time I´m confident that my Quechua will improve little by little.
Liz Kelley
MA Candidate, CLACS

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