Indigenous messages to the world - the story of the KANQ Network (II)

The KANQ Network members reunited in Cusco to continue their learning and the development of their skills on indigenous communication. (Photo: Uskam Camey) The KANQ Network members reunited in Cusco to continue their learning and the development of their skills on indigenous communication. (Photo: Uskam Camey)

Which is the aim of indigenous communication? After having participated in the Gabo Festival in Medellin, the group of indigenous communicators of the KANQ Network reunited in Cusco to participate in the International Meeting of Indigenous Communication and deepen their knowledge by taking advantage of a completely indigenous environment.

By Arnol Piedra*

Cusco, a high-Andean city characterized by its cobblestone narrow streets and Caucasian cheerful tourists, became the second meeting point for the indigenous communicators of the KANQ Network, who, supported by DW Akademie, were able to attend the International Meeting of Indigenous Communication, an event that convoked more than 400 indigenous communicators and activists from all over America.

After their experience in the Gabo Festival, the members of the KANQ Network (the name they chose in Colombia) felt much more confident and connected after the wave of interviews and recordings they awoke with their participation in Medellin. Neither the 3400 meters in height nor the Andean freezing dawn stopped them. From the first day, they did not miss any event. The Meeting started with a spiritual ceremony in the temple of Coricancha, a historic site that symbolizes the clash of two worlds, since the catholic convent of Santo Domingo was built on top of the original Inca temple.

Most of the Meeting took place in the Cusco City Hall Convention Center. The long inscription queues were proof of the appeal of the continental appointment. In the end, the wait and the long journey were worth it. A packed auditorium experimented the essence of the Cusco culture by the singing in Quechuan language of the anthem of the city and the music of the pututu, a traditional wind instrument made of conch shell. Subsequently, they went over the three indigenous continental summits and they highlighted the need of this kind of events for the coordination of the indigenous communicators.

However, it was due to the eloquent words by the Cuban José Ignacio López Virgil, coordinator of Radialistas Apasionadas y Apasionados, that thunderous applause took place among the public. “Our challenge is to give back to our peoples a decolonized word; also communal, cheerful, inclusive and spiritual”, he exclaimed. On the other hand, César Aguilar, president of the Indigenous Communicators Network in Peru (REDCIP), one of the organizers of the event, also said some encouraging words: “We, the indigenous communicators, are the hope for the needs of our communities”.

The cuban José Ignacio López Vigil said some words of encouragement during the opening of the event. (Photo: Uskam Camey)

Days of exchange and knowledge

After the opening, the attenders divided into different auditoriums that covered the four thematic objectives: “Advances, setbacks and challenges of the right to communication for indigenous peoples”, “Indigenous communication and native languages”, “Intercultural and indigenous communication training” and “Indigenous communication for the defense of Mother Earth, the autonomy and rights of indigenous peoples”. All of them are essential topics in the indigenous agenda to build in Latin America more inclusive societies and reach a good living.

The Meeting also included workshops and simultaneous talks, in which they addressed topics related to the use of technology as a tool to empower the community media. Some of the topics they addressed were the Wikipedia content development in indigenous languages, the innovation in community radios, and the new digital narrative, without omitting the important role played by the technologic sovereignty in the indigenous communication.

After three days of learning and exchange, in which the KANQ Network exploited every space to interview indigenous communicators, academics and activists from different countries, they carried out, the closing ceremony, where they developed and issued the pronouncement of the Meeting, which provides a commitment to keep knitting the continental network of indigenous communicators, to maintain these spaces for reflection and to fight for the defense of indigenous rights. 

The Meeting had workshops which the participants exchanged opinions in a dynamic way. (Photo: Uskam Camey)

Multiculturalism in the imperial city

Multiculturalism shined every moment, honoring the Incan etymology that defines Cusco as the “navel of the world”. DW Akademie elaborated South America and world maps in flip charts so that the attenders could mark their place of origin. There was a wide range of points of origin. From the Bolivian plateau to the woods of Guatemala. From the Colombian La Guajira to countries that lie across the Atlantic Ocean such as Spain, France and Germany.

In the context of the Meeting, the KANQ Network had a space titled “Indigenous communication in a non-indigenous environment”, a talk in which their members expressed their experiences and their intercultural learnings in the Gabo Festival in Colombia, as a non-indigenous communicational event, and they exhibited some of the produced contents such as chronicle, radio spots, video and photography. The arduous work of the network was acknowledged by the audience with applause and encouraging messages.

Just like in Medellin, the KANQ Network had a moment for intercultural visits. Their members visited the craft market in Písac and the Sacsayhuaman fortress, and they admired the knowledge and skills of the Inca civilization, which have survived over the passing of the centuries. The group also contemplated the Cusco typical landscape, characterized by its terraces and tile-roofed houses, they took themselves some pictures together with the famous twelve-angled stone and they sampled the flavors of the local cuisine. The baked trout, the quinoa soup, the ‘chuta’ country bread, the pies and the coca tea were never lacking on the table.

Uskam Camey, Jorge Ical, Fabiana Condorí and Martín Vidal enjoying a tour by bus through the imperial city. (Photo: Uskam Camey)

A Communication that defends “the life of all beings”

The lectures in the Event held something in common: the principle that the indigenous communication must defend Mother Earth. Consequently, they developed round tables that addressed topics such as the climate crisis, the criminalization of environmental defenders, and the indigenous governance; these topics generated an exchange of points of view. “Communication must defend the life of all beings and should do so from within communities and with autonomy”, expressed, for instance, Dora Muñoz, nasa leader from Cauca (Colombia).

Besides, the defense of Mother Earth is in fact a historical struggle of peoples. “Nowadays we hear much talking related to the environmental struggle, but it is the same struggle that the indigenous peoples have faced for more than 500 years”, stated Martín Vidal, a Colombian anthropologist and DW Akademie member.

The members of the KANQ Network did not lag behind and they shared their perspective of the topic according to their community livings, since the five countries they represent (Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Guatemala) constantly experience the conflicts caused by the extractivism that threatens nature.

“Indigenous communication contributes to the defense of Mother Earth when it denounces and reports the problems that take place in our communities, due to pollution and the dispossession of our natural resources”, as pointed out by Jorge Ical, a young q'eqchí and member of the Sayaxché de Petén Radio (Guatemala).

Fabiana Condorí, Aymara broadcaster in the CEPRA in La Paz (Bolivia), believes that communication is a driver of change and an important element within communities. “Massive media can make people change their attitude to protect nature. Furthermore, in the communal meetings, in terms of trade unions and organizations, it is necessary to talk about the importance of our local foods and rivers to re-educate ourselves and not to adopt customs that put our planet at risk”.

“The indigenous communicators have a better understanding because they know first-hand the production cycle in communities and how they take care of Mother Earth so that the cycle is maintained. In addition, they can work with educational units and get involved in reforestation and cleaning campaigns”, says Luis Salazar, Quechua broadcaster in the CEPRA in Cochabamba (Bolivia).

As with the Gabo Festival, the KANQ Network used the time to produce content for its community media. (Photo: Uskam Camey)

“Indigenous communication will provoke a revolution”

Once the three days of intensive learning had finished, the members of the KANQ Network shared the reflections acquired in the international meeting and they expressed their opinion regarding the aim of indigenous communication in the near future.

“I have learned that we must communicate in our local language and take ownership of it; and that we must learn from the wise people that inhabit our communities, who share their knowledge without any costs. I also found it admirable to see in the Meeting so many women who have been empowered in communication, when it has traditionally only been seen suitable for men”, expressed Eslendy Grefa, communicator from Lanceros Digitales of Ecuador.

This young kichwa amazonic woman believes that indigenous communication aims to fight for the defense of peoples. “Indigenous communication is aimed at these city media which have attempted to minimize the community media. The power of the people has made us face this communication new era from a digital perspective. Besides, our media is not destined to a single sector, but also to a public in general who wishes to identify with any indigenous peoples”, she specifies.

Eslendy Grefa explaining about the Documentation Center of the Peoples and Nationalities of Ecuador. (Photo: Uskam Camey)

On the other hand, Yenny Paucar, aymara radialist in the program called Wiñay Pangara from Puno (Peru), learned that there is still much work to do. “We need to organize better and go public, since there are still many academic speakers who do not make use of indigenous communication in these events. It gives me strength to see many communicators who work within communities and who teach that we indigenous peoples have some problems and proposals and that they matter”.

“I believe that indigenous communication will provoke a revolution from within the organizations. The indigenous peoples are empowering themselves and awakening to end oppression and obtain a new power which had been denied to them for so many years”, stated Yenny in reference to the goal of indigenous communication. The firmness of her voice reveals a message of hope.

“In the Meeting we got to know a wide range of indigenous peoples that we did not know they existed. We discovered fellowship, friendship and the different communication dynamics to publish the histories and context from each community”, told Stivel Cuene, young nasa and member of the group CosmoVisión del Cauca (Colombia).

This student of communication at Intercultural Autonomous Indigenous University, the only indigenous university in Colombia, believes that these kind of events must be frequent. “Indigenous communication must aim at continuously strengthening spaces like this in the long run and create fellowship and training, because it is a process which needs to evolve and transcend, by taking advantage of the tools delivered by the Internet”.

Finally, Uskam Camey, a kaqchikel activist from Guatemala, discovered the real potential of the indigenous communication. “Our communication depends on the analog media by 85%; however, indigenous young people are increasingly using digital platforms to get informed. Faced with this reality, it is necessary to set actions to migrate gradually from analog to digital. In Latin America, indigenous communication is an innovative field to be explored and known, but for it to be viable some collective strategies must be designed”.

“Indigenous communication must aim at promoting the contributions of the indigenous peoples to humankind, universal culture, science, and, mainly, to the care for the environment. In addition, it must make visible the defense of the territory, the rights of Mother Earth and the problems faced by its defenders”, concluded Uskam, eager to go back to his community to share his experience.

Central America is the following and last destination

A week later, Guatemala, a country of volcanoes and quetzals, was the third and last meeting point for the KANQ Network. The group took part in the Latin American Meeting of Digital Activists for Indigenous Languages, which took place in Antigua, and in the Latin American Festival of Indigenous Languages on Internet, hosted in Guatemala City. The name KANQ precisely honors the original languages present in the group: kaqchikel, kichwa, aymara, nasa yuwe, quechua and q'eqchí. The story of this group of 10 communicators continued in the cradle of the Maya culture in search of new horizons.


This article was originally published in Spanish in December 2019 and translated in August 2020. Check the original version here: 

*Arnol Piedra is a Peruvian journalist specialized in culture and one of the Red KANQ members.

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