Peru has lost its chances in the Copa America but the team’s long-time captain and Bayern Munich striker Claudio Pizarro has gained recognition for another reason: his use of Quechua on social media.
In an ironic twist to his surname from Spanish conquistadors, the soccer captain was recognized this past week by the National Indigenous Society in Chile, where the Copa America tournament is being held, for sending messages over his Twitter account in Quechua, the indigenous language used across the entire Peruvian Andes.
The first message followed Peru’s victory over Venezuela, and another came following the team’s tie with Colombia. He published on his Twitter account – @pizarrinha – another couple of messages following Peru’s 3-1 win on Thursday over Bolivia in the quarter-final.
Quechua, which also refers to the indigenous people living in the highlands, is one of Peru’s official languages, along with Spanish. It is still spoken by about eight to million to 10 million people in South America, with the biggest number (about 3.5 million) located in Peru, mainly in the country’s central and southern Andes.
Even though Quechua has regained certain recognition in recent years, along with Aymara from the southern plains of Puno and Lake Titicaca, and many of the languages from the Amazon, indigenous languages have long been marginalized on the coast in favor of Spanish, and most migrants to the big cities and the coast don’t pass on their native language to their children.
Pizarro said he doesn’t speak Quechua, even though he tried to learn. He got help posting the messages from teammate Edwin Retamoso and others on the team.
“It is our language. I would have liked to learn it in school and have it forever. I tried to learn,” said Pizarro, according to daily El Comercio. “It helps a lot to get people excited. As well, to not lose this language that is ours.”
Pizarro, a 36-year-old from Lima, started his professional career in Peru, including a stint at Alianza Lima. But over the past 15 years he has lived in Europe, where he has played with German clubs Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich, as well as the Premier League’s Chelsea.
Chile’s secretary of the Social Development Ministry, Marcelo Segura, who participated in a ceremony recognizing Pizarro’s promotion of Quechua, said: “It is important that the Quechua language is used on social networks. No other player has done it.”