Peru this week launched its first news show produced entirely in the ancestral Quechua language, as part of an effort to fight discrimination against indigenous people and move towards becoming a more inclusive country.
The half-hour daily show, called Ñuqanchiki (the Quechua word for “us”), premiered on Monday and will air every morning on state-run TV. Its first edition included crime stories, news of political scandals, and a story on how climate change is affecting a rare species of Andean plant.
According to government numbers, Peru has approximately 4 million people who speak only Quechua, and roughly one-third of the population can understand the language. Hugo Coya, president of Peru's National Radio and TV Institute, says the lack of programs or government communication in the indigenous language over the years has led to social conflicts and misunderstandings. Coya hopes that the new program will provide useful information to a segment of the population that has been historically underserved.
“This will be like any other news show,” Coya told Fusion. “But what we will do now is to give Quechua speakers the rightful place in society that they deserve.”
Quechua was once Peru's main language. Its use began to decline with the conquest when Spanish became the official language. Quechua speakers continued to face discrimination throughout the 20th century when they moved to cities to look for work. Many of Peru's indigenous population stopped teaching the language to their kids in an effort to help them assimilate better into the dominant Hispanic culture.
But that has started to change in recent years as the country tackles discriminatory practices against indigenous people, and Peruvians start to rediscover their roots.
Quechua is now featured regularly in locally produced movies, and is even making its way into the national rock music scene. The producers of Ñuqanchiki are hoping the new TV program will continue to help increase national interest and pride in the indigenous tongue.
“Happily people are not embarrassed to speak the language anymore,” said Marisol Mena, one of the show's presenters. “Our intent is that the language is not just used when there's a folkloric festival or a ceremony.”
Ñuqanchiki is part of an emerging trend in several Latin American countries that have tried to use television, radio and internet to strengthen and preserve indigenous languages. Mexico recently tried to increase the use of the Maya language through a soap opera that aired locally in the Yucatan Peninsula, while Ecuador's state-run television launched its own Quechua news show in 2013.
Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczysnki welcomed his country´s new Quechua program with his own message in the indigenous tongue.
“Take care of yourselves, love yourselves truly, learn well and do things well, so that we may all live better,” Kuczynksi said.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.