A 91-Year-Old Peruvian Man Translated ‘Don Quijote’ to Quechua

Lead Photo: Creative Commons "A bookshelf” by Stewart Butterfield is licensed under CC BY 4.0
Creative Commons "A bookshelf” by Stewart Butterfield is licensed under CC BY 4.0
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It’s been more than 10 years in the making, but Quechua speakers will now be able to read El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha thanks to the efforts of 91-year-old Demetrio Túpac Yupanqui. The Peruvian professor and journalist just completed his translation of the second part of the Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra book from the original Spanish to the most widely spoken language family of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

As anyone who’s tried translating from Spanish to English can confirm, it’s no easy task to preserve the meaning or concepts words hold across languages. “Cervantes uses some words in Spanish that are hard to translate into Quechua,”the Peruvian journalist said. “One example is the term hidalgo, which in Spanish means son of a nobleman. But the closest word to that in Quechua is a term for a person who has authority in society, and there are occasions where it’s better to respect the original word.”

And the work is still not done. Yupanqui wants to give Yachay sapa wiraqucha dun Qvixote Manchamantan an extra Andean touch. He wants artists from Sarhua – a district in the Víctor Fajardo province in Peru – to draw illustrations for the book. The first part of book is filled with colorful images.

It is this attention to detail that made Miguel De la Quadra-Salcedo, a Spanish reporter, tap Yupanqui for the project in the first place.

“One day Miguel arrived and, with his Basque accent, told me that he was coming to ask me to translate Don Quijote because in various parts of Argentina and Cuzco they told him that I was the person who could best translate it,” he said. “He surprised me, but I told him that I would do it with the dedication that the work deserved.”

In case you can’t appreciate how much work really went into this feat, then consider that the book is 928 pages in English.