A doctoral student has become the first Peruvian student at one of South America’s oldest universities to write her thesis in Quechuan, the native language of the Incas.
Roxana Quispe Collantes began her thesis presentation at the National University of San Marcos with a traditional thanksgiving ceremony and presented her study titled Yawar Para (Blood Rain) examining the Quechuan poetry of 20th century poet Alencastre Gutiérrez.
To verify the words and phrases used in Gutierrez’s works, Collantes spent seven years traveling to remote communities in the mountainous Canas region.
She also answered questions from the University’s examiners in Quechuan in a presentation lasting over two hours.
Quechua is the most popular Indigenous language in South America, with an estimated 8 million speakers across the continent, and around half of those living in Peru.
Despite the prominence of the Quechuan language, it’s believed Collantes is the only person to have written and defended a thesis in the language at the University of San Marcos, one of the oldest in the Americas, founded in 1551.
The national language of Peru is Spanish.
“I’ve always wanted to study in Quechua, in my original language,” Collantes recently told The Guardian newspaper, adding that the language has the vocabulary to meet the highest academic standards.
“I hope my example will help to revalue the language again and encourage young people, especially women, to follow my path,” she said.
“My greatest wish is for Quechua to become a necessity once again. Only by speaking it can we revive it.”
Collantes received outstanding marks for her work and her doctoral advisor Gonzalo Espino told The Guardian the thesis had “vindicated” the language and culture of the Andeans.
2019 has been declared the ‘International Year of Indigenous Languages’ by the United Nations and of the 2,680 languages at risk of extinction, 21 of them are native to Peru.
In April this year, Peru’s government began to officially recognise names from the nation’s 48 Indigenous languages.