The focus of my thesis is on Quechua language, culture and media. During winter break last January, I went to Lima and met with Chirapaq headquarters, an NGO in Peru that supports indigenous culture.
One of their oldest projects is “Sapinchikmanta,” which means “From our roots” in Quechua. This project trains people in Ayacucho and other parts of Andes to produce radio shows in the Quechua language along with Spanish.This summer, I decided to start my field work researching this project as part of my thesis project, but before returning to Peru, I was able to start my research in New York in May, when I attended the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. I followed and attended presentations on community radio from Guatemala, and met people who identify themselves as indigenous from different parts of Latin America.
In mid-June I arrived in Huamanga, the capital of Ayacucho where I began my work by meeting the staff of Chirapaq at their office in this city.
They introduced me to three stations in the region. I was surprised to learn that that these stations only broadcast one hour a week. I read that that there used to be five stations, which broadcast more frequently. During the next two weeks, I visited each station. First in Huamanga, then onto Huanta and Wilcashuaman, about two hours away in rural areas with a distinct climate and history. I did interviews (in Quechua) with the producers and listeners.
In Huanta, I gladly discovered that these programs were run mostly by enthusiastic youth volunteers. The youngest was a recent graduate from high school. They were very excited about my visit. Most of the members gathered together, and we had a good time getting to know each other. I talked with them about the Quechua program at NYU, which was very good news for all of them!
However, I also met in Huanta a very interesting independent Quechua radio host, in that business since the 1970’s. Huanta was one of the places badly affected by the Shining Path in the 1980’s. Among other things, he mentioned that that he was almost hired to guide the eight journalists who were sadly killed in the town of Uchuraccay in the highlands of Huanta. He told me he thought that if had guided the journalists, they wouldn’t have killed him, because he was well known throughout the region for his popular quechua radio show.
I was especially impressed by the wonderful group of producers in Huanta, how enthusiastic, well-organized and open they were with me, and the pride they have for their Quechua language and roots. One night I observed a show they did in Spanish and Quechua. Interestingly, when they presented the show in Spanish, their expressions were rigid and serious. But when they switched to Quechua, their expressions changed, even the tone of their voices. When they took phone calls from the public in Quechua, the whole group was enthusiastic.
This kind of experience made me think that, for Quechua speakers, it is through Quechua language and music that they can be most expressive and free with their feelings and thoughts; it is the most important part of the identity. And that is the reason why Quechua radio is still an important part of life in Andean towns, even if there are fewer stations than before.
After my experience in the wonderful and proud town of Huanta, I packed my bags and continued by bus to Wilcashuaman, a town in the highlands where the names of each town were in Quechua. For my next blog entry, I will share my experience there.
Posted by Doris Loayza – MA Candidate at CLACS