Farmer prepares to thresh wheat with handtools, Chuquisaca, Bolivia 2009

Photo by Susan Kalt

We need your help.

Taytay Celestino told us this riddle before heading out to the harvest. “Which young lady has beautifully braided, shining hair and many layers of tattered skirts?” Answer at bottom of page!

Celestino remarked that few people remember such riddles anymore. Riddles are just one form of Quechua folk wisdom that is disappearing as its speakers abandon the countryside.

Since 2009 our team has video-recorded over two hundred interviews with Quechua speaking children and adults in remote highlands communities of Bolivia and Peru. Our conversations reveal resilience and resourcefulness in the face of drought and discrimination. Herders and small farmers in the rural Andes possess a wealth of knowledge about living close to nature. Help us build a time capsule of rural speech so that communities can recover pride in their heritage.

Here’s how it works: a pair of educators – one of whom is always a fluent speaker of Quechua – visits a rural community and gains permission to video record conversations. We transcribe, translate and publish them at the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America to be used today and tomorrow by speakers and learners of Quechua, by teachers and others who study language.

Our group is distinguished from others by our efforts to return meaningful results to the communities and teachers where the Quechua language makes the most difference.

I’m excited to ask you to share in this project – please, send a donation today to help.

Dr. Susan Kalt and Project Yachay Simi (Wise Language) have accomplished the following:

  • Created a video bank of rural Quechua speech for current and future generations to access electronically – help us pay indigenous researchers to grow the collection!
  • Created elementary classroom curriculum materials in the Quechua language for rural teachers to use – help us expand these materials and run teacher training and community workshops on how to use them!
  • Put over $5000 of recording equipment in the hands of Andean educators and graduate students and offered workshops on language documentation and research – help us conduct follow-up support with these partners!

Q&A –

  • What will my donation be used for?
    To pay Andean people at the going local rate to record, transcribe and archive interviews, develop curriculum materials and workshops promoting the local Quechua language.
  • To support indigenous Andean people as they pursue advanced studies in linguistics and language education
  • Is my donation tax deductible? – YES! We are now affiliated with the
    Endangered Language Alliance / Yachay Simi
    3 West 18th Street, 6th floor
    New York, NY 10011

About Us: Project Yachay Simi [Wise Language] joins North and South American linguists and teachers in an effort to preserve and revitalize the language and culture of rural communities in the Andes. Associates include faculty, students and graduates of Andean programs in intercultural bilingual education as well as teachers in-service and community leaders. Dr. Susan Kalt, founder of Project Yachay Simi has been visiting rural communities since 2000. A professor of Spanish at Roxbury Community College, she’s received awards from the NSF/National Endowment for the Humanities Documenting Endangered Languages Program (USA), American Council of Learned Societies and Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Foundation for Endangered Languages (London) and created the collections “The Speech of Children from Cusco and Chuquisaca” and “Duck and Frog Stories in Chuquisaca Quechua” at Univ. Texas’ Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America.

To donate today, send a check with ‘Yachay Simi’ in memo line to

Endangered Language Alliance/Yachay Simi
3 West 18th Street, 6th floor
New York, NY 10011

Answer to the riddle: the qhiwiña tree, with its delicate leaves and ragged layers of bark!


Photo by Alexander Yates