By Valeria Andrango
The 6th Annual Meeting of The Quechua Alliance was an experience that completely transformed my knowledge of Quechua as an identity and as a livelihood. I came to the U.S. when I was relatively young, inevitably creating distance between myself and my Kichwa heritage. Besides the few Kichwa words engraved into my everyday language and the customs my mother taught me, there was a very limited community that pushed me to re-engage with my Kichwa identity. My Indigenous family members back home dealt with the stigmas that came with identifying as Indigenous on an everyday basis. And despite this, they still found an immense pride in speaking their native language and wearing their native clothing. I wanted to be able to replicate that resilience and reclaim this part of my identity, and I was able to do this by participating in the Annual Meeting of The Quechua Alliance.
Oftentimes when we hear of organizations working to promote Quechua and Andean culture, they focus on the history of Quechua. And while it is always amazing to hear about our ancestors and our traditions, the Quechua Alliance also provided something new. Many of the panelists and presentations focused on the integration of Quechua into modern spaces. Listening to Quechua innovators discuss the development of language apps, integrate Incan culture into social media, and promote Quechua in digital initiatives was genuinely inspiring. I particularly enjoyed listening to The MafiAndina perform. I grew up in Harlem, a community where rap is very popular for both its artistic style and cultural context. Witnessing the integration of this part of my identity within my Indigenous identity was an eyeopener for Quechua’s possibilities. It proved that despite being an endangered language and endangered culture, there was concrete proof that its livelihood is continuing to grow through the initiatives of young people. What I found particularly beautiful about these presentations was the omnipresence of the work done by previous generations to create these spaces. In every presentation there was a clear reflection of the work our elders had done to help pave this path to integrate Quechua into modern-day spaces.
Many conversations on leadership and organization romanticize the idea of originality and individuality. This fixation on originality completely neglects how constructive the culmination of past successes can be. Every leader’s methods vary according to circumstances, but no one leader is original considering the big picture. For example, no person can reinvent what hope looks like; it makes sense why many people compare President Obama to Dr. King. Dr. King to Gandhi. Gandhi to Moses. None of these leaders used the same methods, but they all made marginalized people feel hopeful. The Quechua Alliance brought together a large array of leaders and organizers, all committed to pushing forward the education and promotion of Andean culture. And despite the different disciplines, different methods, different tools, they all reflected a larger entity, a larger community – one I had been searching for so long. The Quechua Alliance was truly inspiring and motivating for many young people like me to reclaim their heritage and reclaim their stories for ourselves and for the sake of those that came before us.
Valeria Andrango is a first-year student at the University of Pennsylvania studying Political Science and Latin American Studies. She hopes to utilize her background as an Ecuadorian immigrant of Kichwa heritage to bring to the forefront indigenous rights and indigenous language revitalization.
The 6th Annual Quechua Alliance Meeting took place on December 4-6, 2020. It was cosponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley and the Quechua Alliance. More information is available here: https://thequechua.org/qa2020/