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An Amazon Tribe's 500-Page Traditional-Medicine Encyclopaedia

The Amazon Rainforest supports millions of plants that could be vital ingredients in still-undiscovered medications. For that reason, many pharmaceutical companies and even the US government are currently funding projects to study the indigenous plant knowledge of native shamans and healers in the area, and develop new drugs.

The Matsés people, who live in Peru and Brazil, have created a health encyclopedia more than 500 pages long cataloging their traditional medicinal practices, preserving ancestral knowledge for younger generations. The majority of the shamans are old and without apprentices. So when they die a vast knowledge also disappears.

But, in order to avoid bio-piracy, this information remains with the Matsés people; it is only accessible in the native tongue and is only distributed within the tribe’s villages. Protective measures also include: “no scientific names are used to identify local plant species, and no plants will be pictured in detail, so as not to be identifiable to outsiders.”

“The [Matsés Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia] marks the first time shamans of an Amazonian tribe have created a full and complete transcription of their medicinal knowledge written in their own language and words,” Christopher Herndon, president and co-founder of Acaté, told Mongabay in an interview.

According to Pachamama Alliance, a global community focused on creating a sustainable future, the health and wellbeing of the Western world, often comes at a high price for indigenous peoples. As pharmaceutical companies have realized that their research generates better outcomes if they co-operate with indigenous people and tap into their wisdom, rainforest tribes are at risk of losing control over their resources.

Once the pharmaceutical companies have developed the drug, they file patents claiming exclusive rights to the medical use of the plant – hence limiting or even denying access to the plants that indigenous peoples have relied upon for centuries.

That's why in 2010, the tenth Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing. It specifically addresses the issue of bioprospecting and the rights of indigenous peoples to access to forest resources, intellectual property, and adequate compensation.

Acaté, a San-Francisco-based non-profit, assisted the five shamans who compiled the encyclopaedia. In the encyclopaedia, each entry is categorized by a disease name and features explanations of how to recognise the disease according to symptoms, understand its root causes and know how to prepare medicine from specific plants to use as treatment. The entries also make readers aware of alternative therapeutic options.

The idea behind the project is to make the tribes less dependent on conventional doctors and western drugs, while maintaining their self-sufficiency.

Peruvian Ministry of Education Makes 24 Indigenous Alphabets Official

Alumnos nivel inicial. Comunidad asháninka de Pamaquiari. Foto en Flicker del usuario  Global Humanitaria (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Kindergarten students. Ashaninka community in Pamaquiari. Photo on Flickr by user Global Humanitaria (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

The alphabets of 24 indigenous languages were made official in Peru as a result of joint efforts by the Ministry of Education and numerous indigenous communities. The documents were adopted by consensus and will be used to help preserve and improve the use of these languages, both in their written and spoken forms.

De ese modo, los 24 alfabetos deberán ser usados por las entidades públicas cuando tengan que emitir información escrita dirigida a esos grupos étnicos, en concordancia con lo dispuesto también por la Ley 29735 que regula el uso, preservación, desarrollo, recuperación, fomento y difusión de las lenguas originarias del Perú.
[…]
De esa manera, se respeta el derecho de los niños y adolescentes a recibir educación en su lengua materna. Está comprobado que así aprenden mejor porque se sienten más motivados y porque se respeta su identidad cultural, fortaleciéndose su autoestima.

Thus, these 24 alphabets should be used by public entities every time they have to issue written information addressed to these ethnic groups, as it is established by the Law 29735, which regulates the use, preservation, development, recovery, foster and spread of the indigenous languages of Peru.
[…]
In this way, the right of children and teenagers to be educated in their own native language is respected. It's been proven that this is the way they can learn better, as they feel more motivated, their cultural identity is respected, and their self-esteem becomes stronger.

As usual, Twitter echoed the news:

Ministry of Education makes official the alphabets of 24 indigenous languages, which will be used by all public entities.

Perú reconoce 24 alfabetos nativos.

Lima Orchid, a Flower Once Believed to Be Extinct, Blooms Again in the Peruvian Capital

Variedades de orquídea.

Different kinds of orchids. Image published on Wikimedia Commons under license CC BY-SA 3.0.

For over 50 years, it was thought that the Lima orchid was an extinct species; but, good news comes from a team from the National Forest and Wildlife Service, which is also part of the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture:

Los especialistas encontraron ejemplares de dicha orquídea, típica de las lomas de la cuenca del río Rímac, en las cercanías de dicho cuerpo de agua. Pronto corrió el rumor sobre la mítica flor, que se creía desaparecida desde hace más de cincuenta años.

The team of specialists found some specimens of this orchid, typical of the hills in the Rimac river basin, near that body of water. The rumor about the mythical flower was soon well known, a flower believed to be extinct for over 50 years.

The news was echoed on Twitter:

Orchid of Lima “Chloraea undulata” reappears, although it was believed extinct. Enjoy it.

Now it's up for the authorities and the population to take care of it and preserve it.

Initiative Helps Children With Autism Through Surfing

Foto en Flickr del usuario Manolo Guijarro (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Image on Flickr by user Manolo Guijarro (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Tabra is an association launched by Guillermo Ferrero and Andrea Mesones in Peru that aims to improve life quality for children with autism and Down syndrome through surfing and contact with nature, as stated on their Facebook page.

Guillermo is the father of a 13-year-old boy diagnosed with autism, and Andrea is a psychology student at a university in Lima.

Tabra nace del deseo de probar alternativas para lograr una mejora significativa en los niños con problemas del desarrollo cognitivo, dándoles oportunidades de expandir su mundo.

Tabra was born of the desire to try new alternatives to achieve a significant improvement in children with problems in their cognitive development, giving them opportunities to expand their world.

During every monthly two-hour session, “They try to have newcomers, so everybody can participate.” Due to their logistics, they can allow only ten to 12 children per session.

As Guillermo Ferrero says:

La felicidad que tienen cuando están en el mar es tan contagiosa que realmente tú terminas una sesión de Tabra con el corazón y el espíritu lleno de energía por todo lo que te transmiten estos niños durante el momento en el que están conectados con el mar.

The happiness they feel when they are in the sea is so contagious that you really end a session with Tabra with the heart and spirit full of energy for all that these children transmit during the time they are connected with the ocean.

About the name Tabra, the blog Seis de enero tells:

El nombre nació de una manera espontánea un día que estábamos conversando fuera del agua y el muchacho [el hijo de Guillermo] empezó a decir “quiero tabra”, pronunciando mal la palabra tabla.

The name came up spontaneously one day when we were just talking by the sea and the boy [Guillermo's son] started to say “I want tabra”, with a bad pronunciation of the word tabla (the Spanish word for surfboard).

Peruvian Web Users Take the #LanguageChallenge

International Mother Language Day was celebrated on February 21, as a commemoration of the right every nation has to keep its own language, a key element of cultural identification. In Peru, there are 47 native languages, spoken by about 4 million people.

To mark the occasion, the Office of Indigenous Language of the Vice Ministry of Interculturality of the Ministry of Culture invited Peruvians to participate in the #LanguageChallenge:

It's very easy to participate in the #LanguageChallenge!!We show you how.

The blog La Mula reported what the second edition of the Challenge of Languages was about:

Este sábado 21 de febrero se celebra el Día Internacional de la Lengua Materna y la Dirección de Lenguas Indígenas del Viceministerio de Interculturalidad ha lanzado la campaña Reto de las Lenguas (#RetoDeLasLenguas). En realidad, es un desafío creado el año pasado en las redes sociales de diversos países. Quien lo acepta debe grabar un video en una lengua indígena y retar a otra persona a que haga lo mismo. A la fecha han participado hablantes de lenguas indígenas norteamericanas y europeas, pero aún es poca la participación de lenguas sudamericanas.

On Saturday, February 21, we celebrate International Mother Language Day and the Office of Indigenous Language of the Vice Ministry of Interculturality [of the Ministry of Culture] has launched the campaign the Language Challenge. It's really a challenge created last year on social networks from various countries. If you accept it, you have to record a video in an indigenous language and challenge another person to do the same thing. Until now, indigenous speakers from many North American and European communities have taken part, but we still have a small participation of South American languages.

On Twitter, various users rose to the challenge, such as Quechua speakers Qorich'aska Qespi Puma and Jorge Alejandro Vargas:

Excellent video from #Retodelaslenguas by Qorich'aska Qespi Puma and Jorge Alejandro Vargas. Now, let's hope that…

This video shows Culina, spoken in Peru and Brazil Amazon regions:

Another Language Challenge from Peru! The so-sexy Nehemías Pino speaking Culina! We have 47 languages!

There is even a video with sign language:

Message in Peruvian sign language for the Language Challenge, I challenge linguistic models from C. Beethoven.

Another video from Cusco:

A video from abroad by a speaker and academic of Shawi, an Amazonian language:

To follow the challenge, which is still going on, follow the hashtag #Retodelaslenguas on Twitter.

Film Documents Alleged Human Rights Crimes by Peru's Military in the 80s

Recovering Latin American historical memory and raising awareness of the atrocities committed in the past are crucial steps to take in order to ensure they are never repeated and that, instead, we continue to work towards strengthening our democracies. To that end, film can play a crucial role in compiling testimonies that constitute our collective memory, in this case the history of Peru.

Spanish filmmaker Luis Cintora unveiled his new documentary at the Latin American Film Festival and the Melbourne International Film Festival. It recounts the alleged crimes committed by the Peruvian army in their fight against the militant group Shining Path from 1983-84 in the Ayacucho region. The documentary “Wecome to Los Cabitos” features testimony from survivors, relatives of missing persons, academics and soldiers, who provide moving testimony about the alleged crimes against humanity perpetrated on the former military base.

Documentary filmmaker reveals that young people in #Ayacucho are unaware of the era of terror.

It is not the first time that the Spanish filmmaker has focused on this dark period in Peru's history. In 2012 he made “The footprints of the Shining Path“, which explores the shadow cast by this violent organization on the country's collective memory, one which not surprisingly elicits conflicting emotions.

Filomena Sanchez disappeared in Huanta in 1988; they found her body among the cadavers uncovered in the Los Cabitos barracks.

One more from the PROTERRORISTS, based on the CVR [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] report.

Argentina Creates Registry of Interpreters of Indigenous Languages

Enia Pilagá de la provincia de Formosa - Imagen de Laura Schneider

Pilagá Indigenous from Formosa Province in Argentina – Image: Laura Schneider

Following the case of Reina Maraz, a Bolivian Quechua who was detained in Argentina for three years without knowing why, the Court of Buenos Aires province has approved the Registry of Translators for Indigenous Languages.   

According to research from the Instituto Nacional de Asuntos Indígenas (National Institute of Indigenous Affairs), during 2004-2005 it recognized the existence of 38 native people communities based on a Complementary Poll of Indigenous Communities from Argentina:

Los pueblos con mayor población a nivel nacional en orden descendente son: el pueblo Mapuche con 113.680, el pueblo Kolla con 70.505 y el pueblo Toba con 69.452 habitantes. En cuanto a los de menor población, se encuentran los pueblos Quechua con 561, los Chulupí con 553, los Sanavirón con 528, los Tapiete con 484 y por último, el pueblo Maimará con 178 habitantes.

The most populous communities nationwide in descending order are: Mapuche with 113,680, Kolla with 70,505 and Tobas with 69,452 inhabitants. As for the smaller population, Quechua are 561, the Chulupí 553, the Sanavirón 528, the Tapiete with 484 and finally the Maimará with 178 inhabitants

Similar registers already exist in Peru, with its Registry of Interpreters of Indigenous and Native Languages, and Bolivia, whose General Law of Linguistic Rights and Policies outlines its main objectives as:

1. Reconocer, proteger, promover, difundir, desarrollar y regular los derechos lingüísticos individuales y colectivos de los habitantes del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia.

2. Generar políticas públicas y obligaciones institucionales para su implementación, en el marco de la Constitución Política del Estado, convenios internacionales y disposiciones legales en vigencia.

3. Recuperar, vitalizar, revitalizar y desarrollar los idiomas oficiales en riesgo de extinción, estableciendo acciones para su uso en todas las instancias del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia.

1. To recognize, protect, promote, disseminate, develop and regulate individual and collective linguistic rights of the citizens of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.2. Generate public policies and institutional requirements for implementation, under the State Constitution, international conventions and legal provisions in force.3. Recover, vitalize, revitalize and develop the official languages at risk of extinction, setting actions for use in all instances of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

COP20: Responsibilities of Capitalism On Climate Change

The 20th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and 10th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP20/CMP10) was held in Lima between December 1 to 12, and was chaired by the host country, Peru. During the conference, Bolivian president Evo Morales, emphatically appealed to consider climate change as a direct consequence of capitalist system and urged industrialized countries to accept the consequences of their actions:

Evo Morales urges to listen to indigenous people and to fight against capitalism during COP20.

Damián Profeta sums up the ten main points of Morales’ speech, and he highlisghts:

- ‘Hay que crear un Tribunal Internacional de Justicia Climática’ [encargada de] ‘juzgar a países que no cumplen sus compromisos y los tratados internacionales y a los que hacen mucho daño al ambiente’ […]
– ‘Que el sistema capitalista asuma su responsabilidad en el cambio climático’ […]
– ‘En la lucha contra el Cambio Climático los países del Norte nos han llevado a un terreno infecundo’ […]
– ‘El medio ambiente debe ser administrado comunitariamente porque la naturaleza misma es comunitaria’

- An International Court of Climate Justice [in charge of] judging countries that don't fulfil their obligations and international treaties and those who harm environment a lot must be implemented […]
– The capitalist systema should take responsibility on climate change […].
– In the fight against climate change, the Northern countries have taken us to a sterile ground […]
– Environment must be managed communally, as nature itself is communal

Some Twitter users answered reminding him his actions about the construction of a highway along the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory (TIPNIS):

Evo proposes community property to save the