Modern Quechua are descendants of the Canaris, Chancas, Huancas, Incas, and other South American indigenous peoples. The word Quechua was originally used for the official language of about 11 million indigenous people in South America. Today, the word, Quechua also means the indigenous people themselves who speak the Quechua language. The Quecha diaspora includes the indigenous people from Argentina (55,493 in number), Peru (3,500.000), Bolivia (2,910,000), Ecuador (2,568,000), Colombia, and Chile (at 8,200 Chilean Quechua strong). The time of the Spanish conquest of South America has produced the mestizo half-breed of Spaniards and Quechua indigenous races. Today, pure Quechua peoples can only be found in far-flung communities in their respective countries.
History and Persecution
The history of the Quechua people is directly linked with the Inca Empire. It was the Incas that conquered the many different Quechua tribes in South America and assimilated some of these peoples to their own race. However, after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, the Quechua peoples were summarily killed by execution and foreign diseases, which was more than the Incas could have done as their population grew, an Inca fear about being outnumbered. Today, as in past times, the Quechua peoples are still subjected to persecution often as a result of being seen as peasants especially in the remote villages in their respective countries. The Quechua mestizos are treated differently as are the modern Quechua people who adopted the Quechua language for convenience.
Traditional Ways of Life
The Quechua Indians and their contemporaries may share some similarities in their way of life but only to a certain extent. The lowland and city Quechua people have mostly been influenced by modern culture introduced by the Spaniards. The modern Quechua today live in townships, homesteads, and communities. However, many aboriginal Quechua Indians still practice centuries-old traditions in the central Andean highland villages. They subsist on agriculture such as pastoral farming and cultivation of arable crops. The Aymara Indians and the Quechua Indians are today closely linked in their traditional way of life. They live in clay brick houses with straw roofs. They weave naturally-dyed cotton and wool into fabrics for clothing and handicrafts.
Culture, Language, and Entertainment
The Quechua language is a co-official language to Spanish in Peru but is a second language in Bolivia. In the highlands of these two countries, the Quechua language is spoken as sole language by about 50% of the population although 80% speak Quechua but use other dialects instead while 90% understand the Quechua language. Ancient Quechua culture and entertainment are linked with Inca traditions. Modern Quechua peoples have been influenced by Spanish cultural elements that were introduced by the conquistadors such as Christianity, domesticated animals, and farming implements. Traditional clothing persists in many Quechua communities even in cities and townships. Meetings, weddings, and festivals all form part of the Quechua people's traditional entertainment.
Notable Quechua personalities are a mix of leaders, revolutionaries, activists, and entertainers. One of the most notable is Peruvian President Ollanta Moisés Humala Tasso who took office July 28th, 2011. President Tasso won over Fujimori in a run-off vote in the 2011 election. Another leader who came from the Quechua race is Peruvian Viceroyalty José Gabriel Túpac Amaru who early on led a revolutionary uprising against the Spanish colonialist in 1780. Although he later held the government position as vice-royalty, he was executed in 1781. A happier circumstance is evident with the Quechua German-born American actress Q'orianka Waira Qoiana Kilcher who achieved fame in the role of Pocahontas in the film, The New World in 2005. She also played the major role in another film, Princess Kaiulani. Other notable Quechua are Martin Chambi, a photographer, Diego Quispe Tito, an artist and painter, Benjamin Bratt, an American actor, Josh Keaton, also an American actor, and Penelope Velasco, an American activist.