Introduction / History
Since the time of the colonization, Quechuas were either ignored (geographically difficult to access) or exploited as miners in Potosi or as peons on the haciendas of Spanish land lords. In Bolivia this situation didn’t change until the revolution of 1952-1953 when the majority of the hacenderos (land lords) were removed from power. Renowned for their tremendous work ethic, most Quechuas enjoy private land ownership as well as the right to move wherever they choose. Traditionally an artisanal culture, the Quechuas have adapted to many aspects of modern technology including widespread use of trucks, heavy equipment, plastics, communications technology, and imported fabrics. Today’s material culture is a blend of the old and new with traditional forms of expression taking on new shapes through technology. For example, there are two broad classes of Quechua – women who maintain some form of traditional dress (cholitas), and those who have adapted western-style dress (chotitas) The cholitas’ traditional skirt and long thick braids are today a sign of pride among the Quechua, while the other segment continues to speak in Quechua and traditional practices but is not visibly different than other city dwellers. The vast majority of Quechua speakers are bilingual in Spanish except for in the most remote mountainous areas due to the public school system only being offered in Spanish up until recently.
What are their lives like?
Because Quechua speakers are found in every strata of society, generalizations are difficult. As hard workers, the women spend most of their day either cooking for their extended family, or selling products in the market. Food is of paramount importance. For example, each traditional food demands a particular kind of potato. Each area is tremendously proud of their traditional food and there are festivals that rotate from place to place throughout the year celebrating their styles of food.
Quechuas traditionally value the past more than the future, as the past can be easily seen and understood and the future is obscure. One practical outlet of this cultural value is the tremendous burden of both respect and material aid that Quechuas give their parents in preference over their children. Another key to Quechua culture is the idea of the ayllu – a traditional extended family unit that provided structure to the community, the family, and a mutual defense against change. While most Quechuas are no longer part of a traditional ayllu unit, the value is today expressed through labor syndicates, neighborhood groups and political action groups.
What are their beliefs?
Today the majority would self-identify as Roman Catholic followed by traditional religious practitioners and various evangelical identifications. Traditional beliefs religious beliefs were intentionally syncretized into Roman Catholic forms with the arrival of the Spanish while the family structure, community organization and language changed much more slowly. The Roman Catholic church lost a lot of power and prestige during the revolution of 1952 and as a result, many people either left Roman Catholic church in practice while still self-identifying as Catholics, or entered one of the various evangelical churches.
What are their needs?View Quechua, South Bolivian in all countries.
Today there is a great need expressed by evangelical church leaders for Bible training in their language. The Bible has been completely translated, but functional literacy is still relatively low in the Quechua language. So a two pronged approach includes raising the comprehensive literacy of the leaders and at the same time deepening their understanding of the Bible. Radio Mosoj Chaski (New Messenger Radio) is a shortwave radio in Cochabamba that broadcasts in the morning and evening purely in Quechua. It reaches all of Bolivia and southern Peru as well. The radio offers an itinerant Bible school primarily to leaders in Potosi and Oruro that consists of 8 courses. Each course is purely in Quechua, takes an average of 2 ½ days and includes homework to be done between courses. The Bolivian Bible Society is sponsoring a revision of the 1993 Bible translation to increase intelligibility and clarity. The revision project is scheduled to be completed in 2015.