Quechua people belong to the ethnic tribes of South America dispersed throughout the western part of the continent. They are largely located in the Andes mountain range. The regions with significant population of Quechua people are northern Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and southern Columbia. There are a number of dialects within the community and their speech pattern varies across different regions.
The total population of Quechua tribe is approximately 10 million to 14 million. And more than 3 million Quechuas are distributed across Peru. With a significant number of Quechua people in Peru, Quechua is recognized as the co-official language of Peru along with Spanish since 1969.
Quechua tribe is a direct descendant of ancient Incan empire and they managed to survive through the Spanish conquest of 15th century. They were oppressed by the Spanish for centuries and were subjected to bonded labor and slavery. Primarily, located in southern highlands of Peru, the tribe expanded with the expansion of Incan empire. Quechua was also recognized as the official language of Inca. Many Quechua ethnic groups share a strong cultural affinity with Aymara people who have been living in the Andes and Altiplano region since many centuries.
Quechua tribe is largely engaged in agriculture and pastoral lifestyle. Interestingly, the tribe still follows their age-old culture of joint work. It exists in two forms viz. Minka and Ayni. In case of Minka, people work together on projects of common interest such as construction of community facilities. On the other hand, Ayni is similar to a quid pro quo arrangement. Here one family supports the other on a private project and in return expects a similar favor back when their turn comes.
The ethnic groups of Quechua give a lot of credence to traditional costume. Women in Quechua community like to dress in traditional colorful costume with bowler -style hat. The dress is an amalgamation of styles from Pre-Spanish days and Spanish colonial times. While most Quechua men are found to be wearing a hand-woven garment called poncho especially worn on special occasions like festivals, meetings or weddings.
The Quechua community often faces discrimination from urban Spanish-speaking communities due to their color, language and poor background. Like any other community, even Quechua people want to become a part of the mainstream. Unfortunately, Peruvian government has done little apart from recognizing their language as official.
Image Source: “QuechuaWoman”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons