From: Cusco, Peru
Working on a new project to record and release online native Quechua stories, myths, parables, jokes, proverbs, etc. I released the first one yesterday. It is a short story about a condor and his girl. You can listen to it and read along in Quechua: Kundur (The Condor). English and Spanish translations will be up soon.
People often decry the fact that Quechua is in decline, that tales and traditions are being lost, as fewer and fewer children grow up speaking Quechua. By recording and making them available online, I feel that I’m doing my small part to help preserve Quechua and its unique story.
Though, in some contradictory way, I feel that, by recording and transcribing stories, I’m also contributing to the decline of Quechua.
(For reference, the kinds of stories I’m referring to are tales, parables, children’s stories, myths, etc.)
This strange thought occurred to me while editing a beautiful story, told from memory by a young woman, who had many stories she couldn’t wait to tell me. I realized I couldn’t think of any stories or myths from my culture. That struck me as absurd. Surely, we have stories and myths? I mean, I remember hearing them when I was a kid. Where did they all go?
Of course we have stories and myths (think Aesop’s fables and Grimm’s Fairy Tales), but they’re all stuck in books. We invented writing and books, so our shared cultural stories can’t ever be ‘lost’…right?
Well, yes, technically, with books–and now digitization–most of our cherished stories from childhood won’t ever be lost. After all, that’s the problem of the Quechua people today: they didn’t invent writing, and now they’re culture is endanger of vanishing out from under us. It’s a mad dash to scribble down as much history and culture as we can before the Westernization of their identity is complete.
Yet, even as their stories are disappearing, they are still very much alive. They are living, breathing, animated creatures, that change slightly every time they’re told. They make their home in the heads of grandparents and their grandchildren. What a fascinating life these stories have, not restricted by their ‘canonical’ copies in some dusty tome, free to evolve and change.
Our stories are fixed in books, like beautiful vibrant butterflies pinned to the pages of a child’s insect collection. Their colors have faded and they’ve become crispy in our hands. Our stories have ‘right’ versions. Don’t dare deviate from them or you’ll be ‘wrong’.
Maybe that’s the price of preserving our stories. To save our stories we nail them to the pages of books, where they become stationary and stagnant.
Dead stories are better than no stories, I suppose.
And with that in mind, I do my best capturing the stories of the Quechua, pinning them to paper and hoping that in the process I’m not wringing too much life out of them.
Where Is Casey?
blog comments powered by Disqus