Andean nations seek revival for ancient Inca tongue

Mon Dec 7, 2009 10:55am EST
 
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By Walker Simon

LATACUNGA, Ecuador (Reuters) - A shaman blows a bull's horn on festival day and pivots to clouds of burning incense in a purification ceremony, all shot on video.

The snapshot of native American life opens "Nukanchik Yuyay," a twice-daily newscast in Quechua, the language spoken by millions of people across the Andes and enjoying a revival as even presidents take up its cause.

The program's newscasters speak below a woolen tapestry of Cotopaxi, a glacier-capped volcano within sight of the station, Ecuador's channel 47. Besides the station's cameras, a wolf mask bares white fangs.

Based in Latacunga, 80 km (50 miles) south of Quito, Channel 47 says it is the world's first television station for Quechua speakers. On air since July, it features 30 percent Quechua programs and aims to go mostly monolingual as its audience increases.

"Our next project is Quechua cartoons ... to draw in children," says station manager Angel Tiban.

Channel 47's appearance is a part of broader efforts to inject new life into Quechua, repressed by late Spanish colonial powers. New constitutions in Bolivia and Ecuador, enacted under leftist presidents, enshrine Quechua as an official language, and Bolivia this year founded the first Quechua-speaking university.

In Ecuador, Rafael Correa is the nation's first fluent Quechua-speaking president in memory.

Quechua speakers live along the Andes, from Argentina and Chile in the south to Colombia in the north, where it's called ingano. Most are in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.   Continued...

 
<p>Journalist Rosa Inaguan conducts an interview for the state Ecuador TV station in Quechua, the native language of the Incas, in Quito November 19, 2009. Quechua speakers live along the Andes, from Argentina and Chile in the south to Colombia in the north, where it's called ingano. Estimates of Quechua speakers range from 6 million to 13 million, but linguists say that even now some Andeans still won't tell census takers they speak the language because of its long association with backwardness and low social status. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja</p>