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Land of winds > The people > Language | Issue 04. Mar.-Apr.2011
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Argentinean Quichua

Quechua or runasimi is the language most widely spread across the Andean range (see) and has a lot of regional variants such as Ecuadorian Quichua, Peruvian variants, Bolivian Quechua and Argentinean Quichua (known as “quichua santiagueño”, Quichua of Santiago del Estero).
Quechua is not a language native to Argentina, it might well have been introduced in this country by the Inca army, though, historically, it is said to have been brought into the province of Santiago del Estero by Christian priests with a missionary zeal to win Christian converts among native populations. During the Colony, Quechua was regarded as “common language” and used to teach and spread the Christian religion among native peoples, who, on many occasions, had neither ethnic nor linguistic connections to this language. As time passed, the “common language” became a sort of lingua franca and swallowed up local native languages. The region of Santiago del Estero was cut off from other Quechua-speaking areas (e.g. Bolivia) and the linguistic developments in this region gave birth to a new variant of Quechua, which included borrowings from Spanish and several words and expressions from other native languages.
At present, this variant is spoken in the so called “zona quichuista” (quichua-speaking area) of Santiago del Estero province by 60-160 thousand people. There are a local repertoire of musical rhythms sung in Quichua language such as the chacarera and the gato. One of the main exponents of Quichua was violinist Sixto Palavecino, who was a member of the group called “Alero santiagueño”, advocates of this language and cultural tradition. In addition, there is a chair of Quichua studies at the University of Santiago del Estero, and a scholars association (known as ADILQ by its initials in Spanish) with prominent figures such as Jorge R. Alderetes, heir to the tradition of research developed by distinguished Domingo Bravo, who was the compiler of the first Quichua dictionary in 1953. An example of lyrical Quichua is found in the famous chacarera “Añoranzas” accompanied by both non-literal English and Bolivian Quechua translations.

Santiagumanta llojsispá / tucuy ñanta huackarani.
Imájchu maa yacharani / imatachuscka niscayquish
sonckoycka can ancha sinchi / chá punchau llampuyarani.

[When I left Santiago / I cried all the way.
I cried not knowing why / but I can assure you that
although my heart is hard / on that day it broke.]

Santiagumanta lluqsispa / tukuy ñanta waqarqani.
Imaqchu mana yacharqani / imatachusqa nisqaykichis
sunquyqa ancha sinchimi / chay punchay llanp’uyarqani

Listed bellow, there are a few sentences in Quichua of Santiago del Estero for the readers to notice the difference between this variant and its closer “relative” of Bolivia. An English translation is also provided.

Imap aychitamta? Ranap aychitanta
Imap aychachataq? K’ayrap aychachata
[Meat of what animal? Frog meat]

Qayna wawqeyki Luista qollqeta qora
Qayna, wawqiyki Luista qullqita qurqa
[Your brother gave money to Luis yesterday]

Qamqa suk urpilata apamusqaykita
Qamqa huk urpita apamusqaykita
[I saw that you brought a pigeon]

Kwentaq kanku atoqan uturunguan kwentonta
Atuqwan uturunkuwan hawayta hawanku
[They usually tell the tale of the fox and the tiger

Myentras purisqaykupi uyaripoq karayku
Purisqaykupi, uyaripuq karayku
[While we were walking I was listening to him/her]

Quichua of Santiago del Estero has become one way for a movement to recover the cultural roots of a unique region in addition to preserve, promote and spread them: quite a symbol of upholding and ancient tradition which is still alive and beating.

Santiago del Estero Quichua, in Wikipedia.
Asociación de Investigadores en Lengua Quechua (ADILQ) [es].
Alero Quichua Santiagueño [es].
Quichua Santiagueño Vocabulary, by Jorge R. Alderetes [es].
Quichua Santiagueño Literature [es].

Video 01. Tango “La cumparsita” in Quichua, by Betty Pais.
Video 02. Chacarera “Añoranzas”, by Sixto Palavecino.
Video 03. Chacarera “Por curarte he venido”, by Sixto Palavecino.
Video 04 (low quality). Chacarera “Waqachiara”, popular musicians.
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