Felipe & the Quechua Language

Upon arriving at Lima’s Jorge Chavez airport – named after the Franco-Peruvian aviator who died while attempting the first air crossing of the Alps in 1910 – I was greeted by a man called Felipe Morales.

Felipe, a native Andean in his 50s, turned on the radio and started driving. Having had a long flight and in no mood for talking, I opened up Kim MacQuarrie’s book, “The Last Days of the Incas”, and lost myself in the events that led to the downfall of one of my childhood fascinations: the Incan civilization.

As we drove through the nearly colorless town, my attention span divided itself between MacQuarrie’s book and the unfamiliar faces passing by. It wasn’t long before Felipe decided to interrupt me to ask about the book I was reading. I explained to him how it was a fascinating account of the Spanish conquest of Peru and the subsequent battles that arose between the Kingdom of Spain and the Incan Empire, including the very dramatic “Inca’s last stand” in Vilcabamba. It so happened that I was reading a rather gruesome account of some of Pizarro’s numerous atrocities.

“Ah, Pizarro. Did you know he founded the very city we’re in right now?” he asked.

“Of course. January 18, 1535. It was called La Ciudad de los Reyes” I answered.

“So you know about the history of Peru. Good, that’s good but I wonder if.. “

“Felipe, do you speak Quechua?” I interrupted him.

“Quechua? No. I speak Spanish, Sir.”

I had heard from previous bloggers and travelers that many Quechuan speakers hide their native language – presumably because it looks less professional or less modern than Spanish – so I took out my Quechua phrasebook and pretended to be once again lost in my reading.

“You’re learning Quechua?” Felipe asked, clearly surprised.

“Yes,” I lied.

“It is my native language Sir,” He said.

I waited for him to continue.

“We speak it among each other but never in front of tourists. Tourists like high quality, international taxis with drivers that speak international languages.”

“Do you speak English?” I asked.

“A little, Sir.”

It took us about half an hour to get to my hotel, El Ducado, in Miraflores. I thanked Felipe for the service, left my suitcase in my room and went out walking around Lima.

The impression I got from Lima is that of an international city where business can be made and shopping can be done. That being said, I didn’t have time to visit any of Lima’s cultural places as my flight for Cuzco was the next morning. My impression of Lima is therefore limited.

I left El Ducado at 6:00 AM and was taken to the airport by a driver who was not Felipe.

Also found on CowBird

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