Wikipedia: The Peruvian Faces Behind the Project

The following is an excerpt of an interview conducted by Juan Arellano with four Peruvian contributors to Wikipedia and translated by Eduardo Ávila. To read the entire interview in Spanish, please visit Juan’s blog.

Juan Arellano – There seems to be very few Peruvian contributors to Wikipedia, do you agree?

Alejandro Sal y Rosas – I would agree that we are very few. I think that there should be more who contribute, as there are many specific areas that the current contributors have very little knowledge about. It would be good to get more people involved.

Arístides Herrera – Peru, along with Chile and Argentina, has a large amount of contributors, some of which are more active than others. Of the 60 most active contributors to Wikipedia in Spanish, there are four Peruvians: Manuel González Olaechea y Franco, 10th; Huhsunqu (Guillermo Romero Guerra), 33rd; Chalisimo5 (Gonzalo Aguilar) 38th; and Arístides Herrera Cuntti, 59th. There are 24 registered contributors who are Peruvian-born or currently reside in Peru.

Augusto Maguiña – I think so, we should encourage this activity in the schools or universities.

J.A. – Wikipedia is divided according to languages. Could it also be divided according to country? Is there a special page devoted to Peru?

A.S. – Yes, there is a page devoted to Peruvian topics.

A.H. – For the sake of communication, the different editions of Wikipedia are organized according to language, and within each language it is organized according to country. However, that is not the only form of organization, as it is also organized according to interest. Each Wikipedian may be registered and involved with different fields of interest. For example, I write about archeology, gastronomy and history.

Guillermo Romero – Divisions according to language help with the accessibility. Divisions according to topic don’t seem to be very viable, because all of the topics are related somehow. Portals have been recently implemented, which are pages containing specific topics within Wikipedia. Another way to find articles about Peru is to use the [[Category: Peru]] option. The category pages list articles related to a particular subject.

A.M. – I think one can find topics using the [[Category: Peru]] option and see all of the topics listed that deal with Peru or other countries.

J.A. – Do you work collaboratively in respect to a particular topic?

A.S. – We try to work collaboratively with some topics. Some topics are written by experts, and there really is no need to work in collaboration. However, with other pages we try to work as a team.

A.H. – There are other ways to work together, and not necessarily with individuals from the same nationality, but with others those who are interested in a common subject. For example, the article about the War of the Pacific is a project in which Bolivians, Chileans and others from the United States have contributed. Other topics such as Pisco, Pisco Sour and Anticucho also receive contributions from others from different countries. With Pisco, there is some dispute over the origin of the name. There is a tendency that some Chileans want to take credit for the Pisco Sour. The Peruvian team tries to defend Peruvian interests. In each of the articles, especially in the discussion pages, we try to coordinate our arguments so that we appear to be a unified front and reinforce our nationalistic positions.

G.R. – Even though individual participation is the most common means of participation, it is also common that two or more Wikipedians – which is what we call the registered users – with common interests get together to work collaboratively. One of the most complex projects is Wikiprojects, which are specific tasks with one principal page of coordination. For example, we have a project about “The War of the Pacific” where Chilean and Peruvian users work to add their knowledge in order to put forth a neutral and objective article about this historical event.

A.M. – We coordinate when we can, however it is not always necessary. Since the articles are online, they can be edited without previous coordination, which ends up being the same concept of working in team.

J.A. – Jimbo, Wiki’s creator will be in Brazil from September 20-23. Is there a possibility that he would come to Peru sometime in the future? Is there some event here that would interest him?

A.S. – Well, Ari and I have the idea of organizing an event for Peruvian Wikipedians. The meeting will be held in Lima, although we do not have a date finalized. It would be very interesting to host a significant event to give attention to Wikipedia, especially for the Peruvian section.

A.H. Regarding Wiki’s creator Jimbo, it could be possible for him to come to Peru in the future. The Peruvian Wikipedians have still been unable to meet in person. The First Meeting for Peruvian Wikipedians scheduled for the end of July 2005 fell through due to external factors out of our control. We should first figure out all of the logistical matters and then see about bringing invited guests. We have met with some Peruvian Wikipedians separately. For example, Alejandro Sal Y Rosas and his wife were guests in my home a few weeks ago. We hope to do the same with all of them, but due to work commitments many are scattered all across the country.

J.A. – Why do you spend your free time with Wikipedia, which does not give public recognition or provide a tangible benefit?

A.S. – For a researcher, being able to count on a reliable tool like Wikipedia is very valuable. To be able to ponder and discuss topics that interest you is very beneficial. In addition, as Peruvians we feel honored to contribute towards informing the world about the positive aspects of our country.

A.H. – All the Peruvians that contribute to Wikipedia are professionals with stable jobs; the other group is college students that have been studying for the past 16 years, such as Guillermo Romero Guerra, who is very capable, studious and speaks various languages. He produces very good articles (especially his article about Quechua, which was very noteworthy) and I expect great things from him if he continues with this. It’s evident that the motivation is not financial and perhaps it is just the “love of writing”. However, personally, I try my best to use of my free time without neglecting my familial obligations and because I love to write. I have authored many books. It’s also an interesting way to become known; I’ll tell you a story. My niece is getting married in December, she is the daughter of my younger brother and when her in-laws went to ask for her hand over lunch, they asked my brother all of his last names and he responded “Férgan Herrera Cuntti”, and with that, the father-in-law answered: “are you, Aristides Herrera Cuntti, the internet writer?” One feels as if one is teaching and at the same time learns; I feel that over the past year working with Wikipedia, I have learned so much.

G.R. – For me, it’s more than a service that I do for Wikipedia. Many people have big things to contribute even without be a professional. In the book “The Republican History of Peru” by Jorge Basadre, he cited Wikipedia as one of his sources. We are always aware of the possibilities with this project. Maybe it is as simple as that.

A.M. – For me it is a responsibility to share with the world, I speak 8 languages and I have a wide range of cultural knowledge and for me it is a public service. If we can contribute towards a better world, why not?

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