Quechua is the subject of a series of activities taking place this week at New York University, where the language has become part of the curriculum.
The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) at NYU began offering a class on Quechua language and culture a year and a half ago. It’s taught by Odi González, a Cuzco-born Ph.D. who relocated from Perú.
González told EFE that the course has generated interest from graduate students in history, archaeology, literature, linguistics, anthropology, music and public health. Among the 16 students, only two are Latino and the rest are non-Hispanic white, which González termed “interesting.”
He added that NYU is the only area university to offer a course on the language, so some students come from other states in order to take it.
González, who has sometimes been called to New York courts as an interpreter, said that the interest raised by the course transcends the language, extending to the study of Andean culture in general.
“The Andean culture has many sides, not only Quechua, and obviously for all those areas, language is key. How do you understand a culture if you don’t speak the language?” asked González, who also teaches a class on pre-Colombian literature.
González said some 10 million people speak Quechua and Spanish in Bolivia, Ecuador and Perú, with about 5 million of those in his country.
"Perú has the most Quechua speakers,” he said. “And about two million of those only speak Quechua.”
González said he was proud that Quechua was being taught in New York, “such a cosmopolitan city.”
“For me, this is a personal history of a Peruvian proud of his culture. I feel good disseminating my culture and language and that it gains so much interest in a city like New York,” González said.
It was that interest that prompted the creation of the Week of Quechua in New York, he said.
The week, which ends Friday, includes workshops, music, plays and talks, including one given Thursday by linguist Gustavo Solís, from the Peruvian University of San Martín de Porres.
The event was preceded last year by “Quechua Night,” a meet-up at which people would gather to speak Quechua, said Ada Ferrer, CLACS’s director.
For his part, Solís lamented that many Andean parents are no longer teaching their children Quechua, but also expressed satisfaction that Quechua was being taught in New York.
“You have to take this thing about learning Quechua as generosity and fairness on the students’ part, and on the spiritual realm, there’s no denying the great god Pachacamac -- which means ‘Creator of the World,’ is influencing this,” said Solís.