The Quechua language has finally entered the University of Peru. For this magnificent news we must thank a student of Peruvian and Latin American literature. She was in fact the first to write a PhD thesis in the indigenous language in 468 years of academic life.
The First PhD Thesis in Quechua Language
The Quechua language has a thousand-year history and the government in Peru even declared it an official language in 1968. Nevertheless, for centuries it has been rejected in public places. In recent years, however, something is finally changing.
We are at the National University of San Marcos, in Lima. Here, Roxana Quispe Collantes was the first student to write and discuss a PhD thesis in Quechua. For the occasion, the researcher also participated in numerous interviews. She said that it was hard for her to believe that no one in her country had ever written or published a PhD thesis in Quechua. Actually, she was aware that people did not consider this language as high as the official Peruvian language. In her opinion, in fact, for some people it seems unthinkable to believe that this language is suitable for the academic and scientific world.
Roxana Collantes comes from Acomayo, one of the high provinces of Cusco, where people speak Quechua Collao. Collantes considers it a privilege to be born and raised in a community where Quechua is spoken. For this reason, she defends the use of all native languages.
“Peru has 48 native languages and all of them have their own heritage of knowledge. Therefore they can and should participate in scientific and academic life. The vitality or death of a language depends on who speaks it, and Quechua is still happily alive because we speak it. But we need to make progress, to make a qualitative leap,” says Collantes.
The Heritage of Quechua
In Peru, Quechua is the mother tongue for almost 4 million citizens. One million of them live in San Juan de Lurigancho, Lima’s most populous district. Here the number of people who speak Quechua is constantly growing, according to Peru’s National Institute of Statistics and Informatics.
The Peruvian Ministry of Culture reported that since March last year it has allocated about $300,000 for the training of civil servants to teach them native languages. It has also certified 1,773 bilingual state workers or Quechua interpreters in the health, education and judicial system in Apurímac, Ayacucho and Cusco. The number of civil servants who master Quechua is still very small, however, when you think that six out of 10 people in those regions speak Quechua.
Since 2016, state television has launched many TV shows and news in Quechua, followed by radio programs. All of them have had enormous success. Now, thanks to Roxana Collantes, this thousand-year-old language has also reached the university.