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Interconnecting Worlds: Weaving Community Narratives, Andean Histories & the Library’s Collections

Runasimi: the Language of the People

Diego de Torres Rubio, author. Arte de la lengva qvichva. Francisco Lasso, 1619. World Digital Library, Library of Congress.

Although a large part of Quechua-speaking populations are located in the Andes region, Quechua has reached areas well beyond the highlands with over ten million speakers worldwide. There are also over 45 dialects in the Quechua language family.

While Native languages can be framed as languages of the past due to their suppression through colonization, they remain an important part of Indigenous communities’ present and future. Runasimi (the Quechua language) is broadly documented as a vessel for Quechua knowledges and Indigeneity as heritage learners and speakers continue to connect to their ancestral language in diverse ways.

Furthermore, many revitalization efforts for Runasimi start at the local level, demonstrating the strong relationship between the language (simi) and Quechua people (runa). Community organizations, such as the Quechua Collective of New York and the Quechua Alliance, host annual gatherings and cultural events, teach language classes, and design course materials to preserve and promote Runasimi.

It is important to note that while this page highlights the Quechua language, it is certainly not the only Indigenous language in the Andes. Other common Native languages in the region include Aymara, Jaqaru, and Kawki.

Narratives from the Ayllu

Dr. Américo Mendoza-Mori, Leila Inés Albarracin, and Shana Inofuentes discuss the relevance and importance of the Quechua language in relation to their respective communities. For Dr. Mendoza-Mori, the Quechua language is not an element of the past. In his interview, he shares his perspective on Indigenous languages as a form of sharing knowledges and its power to create, influence, and strengthen connections to heritage and identity.

From an Argentinian perspective, Albarracin illustrates her experiences as a Quicha language researcher and the challenges and opportunities presented in her field. Inofuentes discusses Runasimi revitalization through community-building efforts within the context of the Quechua-Bolivian community in D.C.

Learn more about Dr. Américo Mendoza-Mori and his story External

From the Library

This selection of resources introduces the people, culture, geography, and region of the Andes for general audiences and researchers. Staff in the Hispanic Reading Room can provide access to the materials located at the Library of Congress. If you cannot visit us in person send us a message through Ask a Librarian to further assist you.