The Runasimi Outreach Committee (ROC) and CLACS hosted 3rd Annual Quechua Student Alliance Meeting, 2017

On November 11, 2017, the Runasimi Outreach Committee (ROC) and Quechua at New York University hosted the 3rd Annual Quechua Student Alliance Meeting, an all-day gathering sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University, the Organizational Student Life Grant from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at New York University, the K-12 Outreach Program at the Institute of Latin American Studies at Columbia University, and The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies of the University of Illinois. The Meeting offered educators and future educators, students, advocates, program administrators, and other community members the opportunity to exchange their knowledge of Quechua language and culture with each other. Through various presentations and interactive discussions, the Meeting engaged its participants in Quechua language and cultural activities while raising awareness of the growing Quechua communities across New York and the U.S. as well as the increasing importance of Quechua language and cultural education.

The event began with paying respect to Quechua culture and language through a traditional ceremony called Q’oa, led by Julia Garcia, a language partner for Global Languages Network and a middle school teacher. This cultural ceremony grounded everyone in gratitude and in the values of Quechua peoples.


Following the ceremony, presentations and interactive discussions took place, including:
– a roundtable discussion on Quechua language learning in a University context, presented by Quechua professor Américo Mendoza-Mori, from University of Pennsylvania as well as Quechua instructor, Carlos Molina-Vital, from the University of Illinois, Champagne Urbana. Américo Mendoza-Mori recently published an article on this very topic titled “Quechua Language Programs in the United States: Cultural Hubs for Indigenous Cultures” in Chiricú Journal: Latina/o Literatures, Arts, and Cultures.
– a presentation on Quechua linguistics by PhD Student, Gladys Camacho, from the University of Texas, Austin
– a showcase on the community organization by the Quechua Collective of New York
– an interactive conversation on Quechua pedagogical strategies, involving games and activities, led by a New York University CLACS alum, Arleen Dawes
– a discussion and demonstration session of the New York-produced Quechua podcast, Rimasun, presented by Christine Mladic Janet, a PhD student from New York University
– a presentation on the digitization of Quechua, moderated by Diego Arellano, Undergraduate at the University of Ohio.

After supporting a local Ecuadorian restaurant Naño, who provided our lunch, all participants gathered to share “Ima Rayku?”(“For what reason?”), in which they discussed with each other why they are interested in, study, or teach Quechua. This activity shed light on a variety of reasons why Quechua education is of growing importance in the U.S. during this time of globalization and increased international migration. Beginning the afternoon session, ROC presented a community organization award recognizing the work of Kichwa Hatari, a Bronx-based radio program that aires in Kichwa/Quechua for the greater New York community.


Later, New York University Quechua professor, Odi Gonzalez, discussed his book on oral Quechua history and memories, followed by Bruce Mannheim, a linguistic anthropologist from the University of Michigan, who gave the keynote address. The event culminated with a book fair which ranged from a trilingual (Quechua, Spanish, and English) Quechua children’s books to more scholarly publications, including a bilingual (Quechua, Spanish) oral history book and a monolingual (Quechua) linguistics book.

Ultimately, the Meeting successfully brought together Quechua language and culture advocates, students and educators, connecting New York with the Andes. In fact, the day after the event, Daniela Del Alamo Garcia, a teacher in Cusco, Peru at the Language Heritage Institute published an article on the Meeting in El Diario, Cusco.


Original text form: 

Voices, images and sounds of the Quechua Alliance Meeting



On November 14th, 2015 people from across the United States attended the Quechua Alliance Student & Faculty meeting at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. This event was the first of its type in the country. Quechua is the most widely spoken Indigenous language in the Americas with aprox. 6-8 million speakers.


One of the goals of the event was to promote an open conversation about Native-American languages and their space in academia. We also had time for dialogue, lectures, games and songs. And we also offer tribute to Prof. Clodoaldo Soto (U. Illinois), for his 25-year career teaching Quechua in the US.

The event was organized by the Quechua Penn Initiative in collaboration with CLACS – New York University, and the Spanish and Portuguese Department of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

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We would like to share some pictures and info of the event. The website Remezcla made a beautiful article about the gathering. We also invite you to listen to a podcast made by the journalist Ariel Goodman. The audio is in Spanish, but there is an English transcript available here, below.

The people interviewed for this podcast were: Elva Ambía, from the New York Quechua Initiative. Julia García, from the Washington-DC Global Network Language. Irma Álvarez, digital activist and developer of Quechua digital apps. Américo Mendoza-Mori, from the Quechua Initiative at UPenn.


[music intro]

Américo Mendoza-Mori: My name is Américo Mendoza-Mori. We are at the Quechua Student & Faculty gathering at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.

[Quena music]

Elva Ambía: Quechua [language] is part of our culture, our identity. Therefore, we shall not forget it. This is one of the reasons because I speak [Quechua]. I was born with Quechua, so I currently live with Quechua as well.

Julia García: To me, teaching Quechua means to find myself in the place where I was born, where I grew up. I feel that when I came to this country [the USA]  I brought part of my culture where I was nourished with so many teachings and values from my family and my community; so many values I was able to bring with me. I always hear that when you leave your country you leave it behind. That’s not true. We bring with ourselves a little piece of it. To bring that ‘little part’ means: our language, our culture, our rituals. And we still live with these habits.

Américo: Quechua could mean, for someone, the story of a person who his/her father spoke Quechua. Or it could be the story of someone who grew up in non-diverse small town in the United States, and that suddenly, that person can find a sort of refuge of his/her cultural heritage through Quechua. Quechua can also be, for me, a way to travel [back] to my country, [Peru].

Irma Álvarez: I feel inherent to me the fact of being a Quechua language activist. We should have the right to use the language in any platform: digital formats, computers, radio, TV. Quechua should be available in any social context.

Julia: A person might be ‘rich’ in academic degrees, but the base of a person’s identity and culture it is all of what that person learned at home within her/his family and community, the same way as I did. Those teachings can make you hold your breath, you feel like you want to die is you don’t say them, express them or share them. You cannot abandon this world without sharing this type of richness.


Américo: This instrument is very popular in the Andes; it’s called ‘charango’: it’s like a little guitar. To me [Quechua] has allowed me to learn a new ‘cosmovision’; each language offers a point of view. Quechua’s cosmovision educates us a lot with nature and environment issues. When I used to spend some time around peasant communities, we could, sometimes, spend the whole day walking around the Andes. There, I could learn some values of nature. For instance, at 8pm there was no light, so all we had to do before going to sleep was to stare at the stars: to learn how to look at the stars, to learn how to ‘read’ the sky. This [action] has a really beautiful value.

[Music and Singing in Quechua]



(above: Elva Ambía, Julia García. below: Irma Álvarez, Américo Mendoza-Mori)


Julia: When I teach [Quechua] classes, I feel like I’m alive again. Every time I finish my classes I feel renewed. Our reality is to live in a different country speaking this foreign language [English], however within our souls there’s a content to give: a message from our culture. This work [teaching] is very passionate for me and provides me life, despite the fact that my family and my cultural environment are far away, in Bolivia.

[music playing]

Irma: Who am I? That’s a very strong question. Maybe I could try to say it with a poem: I am… Wayrawan tususpa, maywan takispa, rumikunawan pukllaspa

Elva: Here [in the US] we all have to learn the [English] language. I had to do it as well in order to survive. I didn’t teach Quechua to my kids. Quechua stayed inside my mind. My kids grew up without knowing Quechua, but at least we rescued Spanish. They speak Spanish and English very well. And now that I’m retired, I can dedicate myself to teach Quechua to other people.

Julia: I feel that by teaching [Quechua], I’m retrieving the cosmic world I learned when I was a girl. That’s my passion. My cosmic world is represented by my mountains, the rivers, the people, the memories. Each day, each ritual throughout the day; I learned the basic family rules. This cultural background for me is like a cloud I have above my head, so every time I have to do something I remember: this is the way to grow my children, the way to prepare food. These rituals mean my world. A world represented with my stars, my moon; all of that is my cosmic world.