Cuzco celebrated this week the Days of the Noble Runa Simi, as Quechua is called by its speakers. Though the historical native language of Cuzco, Runa Simi is under severe pressure. Young people increasingly prefer to speak Spanish and forget the language of their ancestors.
In response the Municipality of Cuzco, the Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua (The Quechua Language Academy) and other institutions declared a week dedicated to recognizing and enhancing the value of Quechua in the city.
Events began last Monday, October 21st. Held in educational centers, universities, and other locales where students and local people can learn about Quechua and identify themselves with it, as well as give it much more attention and dedication.
Though Spanish seems to have gained an unshakeable hold over the country and its people, the mavens of Runa Simi pledge to fight to maintain their ancestral heritage and its beautiful and subtle tongue.
The week’s objective is to promote intensely the use of Quechua and demand its transmission to all of the people of Cusco by means of these events. The organizers call for it to be given greater value in public and private institutions. There is notter way, they hold, for our maternal language to be used with greater frequency.
The events include concerts, performances of poetry, movies for young people, theatrical performances, and more. They hope to transmit in a playful fashion the use of the language which is as sweet as it sounds and very rich in traditions. They hope to lock the language firmly in the history and current life of our culture.
Census data demonstrate the magnitude of the problem to which the Week of Runa Simi responds. In 2007 only 51% of the total population of the department of Cuzco, the homeland of the Inca Empire first learned to speak in Quechua. While this percentage sounds substantial the percentage has been declining substantially with the growth of the City of Cuzco. In the department’s towns and cities 70% of the population first learned to speak in Spanish. As urban life becomes ever more important, Runa Simi faces ever more pressure.
While it will be difficult to turn this situation around, the institutions supporting the Week of Runa Simi recognize that a positive value must be placed on the language in the City of Cuzco and its use must be seen as important if it wishes to survive.