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A Tribute to Espíritu Bautista, Defender of the Yanesha Language and Culture

The following tribute to the late Espíritu Bautista was written by Anna Luisa Daigneault, Latin America Projects Coordinator at Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages on her Facebook profile. It is republished here with permission. Bautista participated in the Enduring Voices: Digital Media Workshop for Speakers of Endangered Languages in Latin America held in Santiago, Chile, in early 2013, in which Rising Voices also took part. There, he actively worked with his son to revitalize the Yanesha language through the production of the Yanesha Talking Dictionary. The above video shows some of this work.

My friend and colleague Espíritu Bautista passed away several weeks ago. He was a very charismatic and wise person, and he will be missed by his community, the indigenous Yanesha people of the southcentral Amazon in Peru, and he will be missed by everyone who got a chance to work with him. Espíritu was one of the last people in his tribe who had in-depth, detailed knowledge about all of the ancient Yanesha music and oral history.

Espíritu Bautista. Photo by Anna Lazuli

Espíritu Bautista. Photo by Anna Lazuli

I had the immense privilege of working with Espíritu every year in Peru between 2008 – 2013 and help build the Yanesha Oral History Archives, a digital project that catalogued over 300 hours of traditional music and stories, recorded by Espíritu Bautista and Richard Chase Smith.

Espíritu loved eating fish (he would sometimes remark, “my people prefer to not eat birds”) and always had helpful advice to offer, and intriguing stories to tell. He would describe Yanesha music and stories in a vivid, meaningful way. Here are a few excerpts from his catalog (in Spanish, with English translations below) so you can learn a little bit about Yanesha heritage:

Mellañotheñrexh | Este canto fue originado por los dioses de la naturaleza. Ellos cuando nos concentramos para buenas cosas, siempre ellos nos compadecen.

Mellañotheñrexh – Song of the Mountain Gods | This song originates from the gods who reside within nature. When we concentrate and focus on good things, they are always compassionate towards us.

Rrartsorexh | Este canto fue originado de la madre yuca. Lo cantamos cuando sembramos la yuca para que se produzca buenas yucas de calidad.

Rrartsorexh – Yucca's Song | This song originates from Our Mother Yucca (aka cassava root). We sing this song when we plant yucca so that high-quality yuccas will grow.

Yachor Pallá | Esta es la historia de nuestra madre Palla, esposa del Inca. Ella nos trajó el algodón lo que hiló nuestra hermana personaje araña para que nosotros podamos tener nuestra vestimenta típica, la cushma.

Yachor Pallá – Our Mother Pallá | This is the story of Our Mother Pallá, wife of the Inca. She brought us cotton, which was woven by Our Sister Spider Woman, so that we could have our traditional robes, the cushma.

Espiritu's work is preserved in the Yanesha Oral History Archives.

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