More than 40 years ago, Peru became the first Andean nation to recognize Quechua as one of its official languages. Now, this Monday, December 12th, the country of 30 million will continue setting the gold standard for indigenous linguistic rights with the first-ever Quechua-language nightly news broadcast, Ñoqanchik.
Produced by TV Perú and Radio Nacional – Peru’s public television and radio networks – the broadcast will reach 90% of the country’s territory, and promises to provide a culturally authentic take on relevant issues that goes beyond mere Spanish-Quechua translation.
With nearly 4 million native speakers of the language within the country’s borders – totaling 13%, with some regions boasting over 70% representation – the gesture is more than a symbolic shout out to country’s ancient cultural tradition, and will concretely impact the lives of millions of monolingual Quechua speakers throughout the region.
According El País, the program’s title Ñoqanchik is the Quechua word for the inclusive “we”, as opposed to the more limited notion of “ñuqayku”, which refers more specifically to a collective. Such linguistic nuances will be fundamental to Ñoqanchik’s news style, and as anchor Clodimoro Landeo explained, “Quechua isn’t only useful to translate or repeat what is said in Spanish, but rather to give other references. Its principal value is in complementing the same information through a different perspective. For example, in Quechua water isn’t just a chemical element, but also a vital element. It has a different value.”
Landeo and co-anchor Marisol Mena were chosen through an exhaustive selection process in which over 200 applicants were considered; and they bring diverse backgrounds to a team that includes 14 Quechua-speaking reporters nationwide. For her part, Mena worked previously as a bilingual educator and journalist and speaks the Collao dialect prevalent in Cusco, while Landeo spent 11 years hosting a morning show on Radio Nacional and speaks the mutually intelligible Chanka dialect from the region of Ayacucho.
While indigenous languages of the Americas still have a long way to go before occupying their rightful place alongside more prestigious European and Asian languages, Ñoqanchik is a historic step in the right direction from a country that has been the bellwether for linguistic empowerment on the continent.