With a solid performance in the first round of this year’s Copa America, Peru’s national soccer team has given its fans a lot to cheer about. And the team wants all Peruvians to feel like they're part of the moment.
As Peru advances to the quarterfinals of Latin America’s most prestigious soccer tournament, team captain Claudio Pizzaro is breaking down language and cultural barriers by tweeting in the country's indigenous Quechua language, which is at risk of extinction.
“Awesome Peru, together we'll do it,” the captain tweeted in Spanish after helping his team clinch a spot in Thursday's quarterfinals against Bolivia. “Ñoqanchis tucuyta churashanchis llapanchis cusisqa cannchispaq! Hatunllacta Peru!!,” he added in Quechua, meaning: “We are giving it all, for everyone to be happy. Peru is a great nation.”
The Quechua tweet, which has since been retweeted 3.7K times, is contributing to a current sense of national unity in a country that is proud of its Inca past, but also discriminatory towards modern day Quechua-speakers, most of whom live in poverty and conditions of social marginalization.
“I think it’s marvellous that he did that,” said Lourdes Galvez, a Quechua teacher in Lima. “It’s good for people to not be embarrassed of using this language.”
Quechua was once the dominant language in Peru, and the official tongue of the Inca Empire. But its use has been in steady decline since the late 18th century, when Spain’s colonial government forbid its use. Discrimination against indigenous people who migrate to the cities has also discouraged recent generations of Peruvians from using the language. Today, only 13 percent of Peru’s population speaks Quechua as a first language.
Pizarro’s tweet, however, reflects a renewed interest in preserving the country's indigenous tongue, which is now taught at cultural centers throughout the capital.
Galvez, who has been teaching Quechua since the 1970s, says young people are slowly changing their attitude towards the indigenous language.
“When I was growing up young people were embarrassed to speak Quechua, because it was like saying you were poor, or ignorant. It was more stigmatized than it is nowadays," Galvez says. "Now you see it taught in universities and language institutes. I also get people calling me a lot to ask for Quechua names for businesses.”
A Peruvian congressman is currently trying to introduce a law that would make Quechua part of the standard curriculum in public schools around the country.
Galvez thinks that's "an excellent idea" but worries there aren't enough qualified teachers to put that into practice.
For the moment, Pizarro is earning big points for his Twitter lesson in Quechua, even from those who are critical of play in the tournament.
“That was a good one Pizarro,” @luchero tweeted. “Even though you’ve hardly scored any goals.”
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.