Quechua for the Patria Nueva: Indigenous-Language Government Propaganda in 1920s Peru

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 11:20 AM
Chicago Ballroom B (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Alan Durston, York University
The oncenio, Augusto B. Leguía’s eleven-year dictatorship (1919-30), is considered a watershed in modern Peruvian history. Not only was this a key period in the development of the most important political and intellectual movements of twentieth-century Peru (socialism, aprismo, and indigenismo), but Leguía himself sought to incorporate such demands for a more inclusive Peruvian nation within his paternalistic Patria Nueva. In particular, he developed a precocious state indigenismo intended to appeal both to indigenous peasant movements and to their middle-class supporters. Less well-known is the fact that Leguía’s government made intensive use of Quechua-language propaganda, more so than any other Peruvian regime with the exception of the revolutionary military government of Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968-75). During the last 3 years of the oncenio (often identified as a period of conservative retrenchment) speeches by Leguía and his ministers were published in Quechua, along with other propaganda materials that included a history of Peru culminating in the Patria Nueva. At the same time, path-breaking experiments in Quechua-language elementary instruction were being carried out by the Ministry of Education. This paper examines the Quechua materials of the oncenio and contextualizes them in relation to contemporary political and ideological shifts. In particular it shows how “Leguía’s Quechua” both drew and innovated on existing traditions in Quechua letters and debates regarding the place of Quechua and, by implication, Indians in the nation’s future.