The voice of the people
One of Mosqoy’s core values is cultural empowerment. We recognize the strong connection between preserving Indigenous languages and maintaining culture. Because of this, we strive to value and honour the Quechua language throughout the organization.
Although many people think that there is only one ‘Quechua’ language, perhaps with many different dialects, Quechua (or Quechuan) is actually a family of languages stretching throughout the Andean mountains in South America. There are dozens of Quechua languages within this family.
In Mosqoy’s partnering communities, Quechua is often spoken as a first language. All of the students in the Mosqoy Youth Program speak or understand some level of Quechua in addition to being fluent in Spanish. This is necessary for them because, in Peru, Spanish is the language of education, workplaces, and the government.
Until recently, many women in rural communities did not have the opportunity to attend school beyond their first few years, and so did not learn Spanish. Men, on the other hand, tend to understand a much higher level of Spanish, granting them more accessibility to the job market.
Almost all of the weavers we work with are women, so in order to ensure that our weavers understand all the nuances and complexities of our monthly community meetings for Mosqoy Peruvian Textiles, our policy is to always bring a Quechua-Spanish interpreter. Luckily, our Mosqoy Youth Program offers an excellent source of keen and eager interpreters, and we value the time, energy, and skill of our student interpreters by providing an honorarium for their services.
QUECHUA NAMES IN MOSQOY
As a symbol of our respect and value for the Quechua language, we have chosen Quechua names to represent various components of the organization and its textile products. All of these names were chosen with extensive input from our Mosqoy Youth Program students to represent important parts of the Quechua culture. By sharing these names with our supporters around the world, we are able to educate a little more about the Quechua language and culture.
Mosqoy: dream, or to dream. The name of the organization was chosen based on the entrance applications written by Mosqoy’s first cohort of students, in which every single student made a comment about the organization fulfilling a future dream of theirs.
As previously mentioned, Quechua is a family of languages that varies across countries and regions. Because of this, and because Quechua is traditionally an oral language, the spelling also varies, so different forms have emerged and continue to emerge, to best reflect the pronunciation. Therefore, there is not one correct way to spell Quechua words. "Mosqoy" for example, can also be spelled Musquy, Musqhuy, or Moscoy, among others.
When deciding on the spelling of Mosqoy, we consulted with many Quechua community leaders as well as two professionally trained Quechua teachers, all from the Cusco region of Peru. We also researched regional dialects and consulted dictionary usages. Through this process, we chose the spelling, “Mosqoy," to reflect the most common spelling of the word in the region we work.
Kallpa K’oj: giving back energy. This program brings together Mosqoy Youth Program students and Quechua weaving communities so that students can gain valuable insight into these rural communities, learn about their cultural heritage, and develop a greater sense of pride and belonging while providing volunteer help to benefit these communities. Kallpa K’oj is an important pillar of the Mosqoy Youth Program and is a way for the students to reciprocate the support they receive from Mosqoy.
In addition to these important Quechua names in the organization, our students have helped us choose Quechua names for every textile product we sell through the Mosqoy Peruvian Textiles social enterprise. We have included the translation and meaning of every Quechua name on each product's page on our Etsy store. We have also offered Quechua translations of the product type to accompany the English and Spanish terms.
While most letters in the writing system used for Quechua are familiar to English and Spanish speakers, you may notice that some of the Quechua words listed above, like q’ente, have apostrophes within the word. This is because Quechua has a complex system of consonants, with three different types of pronunciation for the consonants p, t, k, and q (the letter q sounds sort of like a k, but is produced a little further back in the mouth). Here are the three types of consonants:
Regular (p, t, k, q): These consonants are the most similar to consonants in English and Spanish. For example, Mosqoy uses a regular q.
Aspirated (ph, th, kh, qh): These letters are produced with a breath of air following them, sort of like the combination of a consonant and an h. In English, when letters like p and t start a word, they are aspirated like Quechua-aspirated consonants.
Ejective (p’, t’, k’, q’): These are probably the hardest Quechua letters for English and Spanish speakers to pronounce, and give Quechua a very distinctive sound. They are produced with a complete closure of the glottis (vocal cords) followed by a dramatic burst of air. All three of our program names include ejective consonants: Q’ente, Mink’a, and T’ikary.
Qantu, the national flower of Peru
In the future, we plan to offer our website in four languages: English, French, Spanish, and Quechua. English and French are the two official languages of Canada, while Spanish and Quechua are two of the official languages of Peru, along with Aymara, one of Peru’s many other Indigenous languages, which is widely spoken in other regions of Peru.
While we recognize that most members of our partnering communities have limited access to technology and lack literacy in Quechua, offering our website in both written and recorded oral Quechua is an important embodiment of our values. Not only is it a symbolic gesture demonstrating the high level of value we give the Quechua language, but it also serves the educational purpose of showing our network outside of Peru what Quechua looks and sounds like.
It is particularly important to provide recordings to accompany the written website, as Quechua has traditionally always been an oral language, and only more recently written using the Latin script. Many people with strong reading and writing skills in Spanish only know Quechua as an oral language and are not able to read or write in Quechua. Once we launch this feature, we hope you will listen to the recordings while looking at the written Quechua to gain a better sense of this beautiful language.
Having our Mosqoy Youth Program students translate the website from Spanish into Quechua will allow them to practice their translation skills and use Quechua practically, which is an enormous employment advantage of being bilingual and fosters a continued connection to their mother tongue while studying away from their community and family in Cusco city. Their translation help will allow them to give back to the organization through the Kallpa K’oj service component of the Mosqoy Youth Program.
And who knows, in this increasingly technologically connected world, perhaps one day our partnering weavers may listen to their own biographies in Quechua on this website!