Quechua and Representations of Indigenous Culture in Peruvian National Identity: Final Post

After a considerable delay due to changes in the Ministerio de Cultura with the advent of a new presidency, I have finally received e-mail responses from my remaining interviewees and can safely post the findings of my summer research without fear of excluding significant aspects of it!  Since my last post, I have secured and conducted e-mail interviews with Rodolfo Cerrón-Palomino (a Peruvian linguist who has contributed significantly to the study of Quechua, and whose research I have consulted frequently over the course of my investigation) and with Fernando Hermoza, the current president of the Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua (an organization central to my project, responsible for regulating the use of the Quechua language in Peru).  These two interviews balance one another nicely, as the first represents a more factual, academically based interpretation of Quechua, whereas the second represents a mythologized and idealized interpretation of Quechua within the framework of a national identity project.   Cerrón-Palomino answered my questions from a strictly linguistic point of view, discounting the idea that Quechua originated in Cuzco and discrediting much of the rhetoric surrounding the AMLQ’s appropriation of Quechua; Hermoza, on the other hand, stated that “the Quechua language today signifies and represents the expression and cultural identity of Peruvians, the only live and vibrant ancestral legacy that runs in the veins of all the inheritors of the millennial Inka culture” (translated).  He also supported the Academia’s policies and their attempts to ensure the “purity, rescue, defense and diffusion of the Language” (translated) in its written and spoken forms.  Both of these interviews will therefore be highly useful in my attempt to separate fact from fiction in the tightly wound Peruvian national narrative.

That being said, after poring over a significant number of articles and books on various aspects related to my project (including Peruvian history, linguistic research on Quechua, the cultivation of a Quechua literary corpus since the Spanish conquest, current issues in bilingualism and education, the Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua, Andean culture and socioeconomics, etc.), I have decided that my research paper will consist of an analysis of the Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua’s discourse on the role of Quechua within Peruvian society as a symbol of national identity.  I will achieve this largely through an analysis of the introductory elements of the AMLQ’s dictionary, with reference to other literature produced by members of this organization (notably, Origen cusqueño de la lengua quechua by David I. Samanez Flórez and Filosofía Inka y su proyección al futuro by Juvenal Pacheco Farfán).  This method will allow for a close analysis of primary texts and comparison to historical fact in order to demonstrate that Quechua’s meaning in contemporary Peruvian society as a symbol of national identity is an ideological construction rooted in an officially endorsed system of rhetoric that portrays it as the preserver of a direct link to the Incan past .  I will focus largely on the AMLQ’s promotion of Cuzco, a city intimately associated with the Inca culture, as the origin of Quechua (despite archaelogical and linguistic evidence to the contrary), the language surrounding ideas of “purity” and “superiority” in reference to this elite dialect, and the discrepancy between the constructed image of the Quechua-speaking Incan civilization and the reality of its modern-day indigenous counterpart.  Secondary texts and the information I obtained in the interviews I conducted will allow me to support my reading of the primary texts as I maintain that Peruvian national identity today is based largely on myth and deliberately crafted notions of indigenous culture and the Quechua language, rather than on concrete fact. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Charles Center, the providers of the Christian-Ewell scholarship, my research advisor Jorge Terukina, and everyone who has made this project possible, whether by participating in interviews or providing direction and support in the various stages of my research.  This has been a truly unique and wonderful opportunity, and I look forward to sharing the finished product in the fall.