For Abel Ancalle, his work is his way of fighting discrimination. For Rocío Cjuiro, a way to prevent her family’s history from repeating itself, after her mother lost a trial and fell into poverty for not having a translator. Since January 11, the two of them and Nely Huayta have translated into Quechua the judicial sessions for the victims of forced sterilizations by the Alberto Fujimori government. According to hundreds of evidence accepted by the judge, the majority of Quechua-speaking victims did not receive information in their language about sterilization, nor did they consent to it, or threatened to report them to the police if they did not accept it.
This Saturday, Magistrate Rafael Martínez will announce whether to open a judicial investigation against former President Fujimori for the crimes committed against 1,307 women and men and the serious human rights violations due to the family planning policy of his Government, in the second half of the 90. In many cases, tubal ligation of poor women resulted in serious injury or death. Lawyer María Ysabel Cedano assures that some 180,000 ligations and vasectomies were performed in that period without respecting international standards of reproductive rights.
The current trial began in 2018, after previous prosecutors shelved the investigation against the former president and the three former senior officials. In the online sessions now taking place, the three interpreters ensure that the complainants understand the court process. Judge Martínez began to read the resolution of the case last September and every ten or 15 minutes he pauses to give the floor to the interpreters of Quechua in its Cusco-Collao variant, spoken in the towns where a large number of people live. victims.
The Ministry of Culture recognizes 14 Quechua variants in Peru and since 2012 has trained 239 Quechua interpreters and translators, most of whom specialize in justice. By law, public entities must hire professionals registered in the national registry of translators and interpreters of indigenous languages. Cjuiro, Ancalle and Huayta are part of it.
Ancalle connects to audiences from the Santa Cruz de Sallac peasant community, Quispicanchis province, more than 3,500 meters above sea level, in the Cusco region. He is 29 years old and trained in Foreign Trade in Lima with a State scholarship, but at a time of little job demand in his field, he redirected his work towards his mother tongue. “I knew Quechua but not the grammar. Once I saw a convocation that was looking for a native Quechua-speaker who could write. It was for a university project of a kind of Google Translate in Quechua, I spent hours and hours writing audios of different varieties of that language, “he says by phone. Ancalle explains that it was during his training that he understood the importance of having so many native languages in his country and that an interpreter could be an agent of cooperation and connection.
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In each session, the translator places on his shoulders a colorful garment – hand-woven – and a hat with pompoms called wiriti. “It means my ancestors, my roots, my language, my origin. With the knowledge of Quechua and my culture, it is a way of saying that I have my parents in mind, who kept what had previously been ignored, as it was neither useful nor worth ”, he assures. For the interpreter, who joined the court hearing on forced sterilizations in April, this is one of his most important jobs to date.
“It is about seeking justice for years of discrimination and trampling rights. This work is a way of reclaiming the lives of those who went through this suffering because because they did not have the language (Spanish) they were not consulted. Women who only knew Quechua sometimes had their fingerprints taken and were given food in exchange for surgery, “he explains.
Rocío Cjuiro, 33, was initially trained as an official tourism guide and resides in Chinchero, in the Cusco region. She is the interpreter with the most experience in intercultural justice, and she writes down on a notepad while listening to the magistrate. She is the mother of a baby just over a year old, who is sometimes heard crying when the court hearing lasts for several hours.
The harshness of the testimonies and evidence she has heard in these months about the ways in which health personnel forced women to have their tubes tied has led her to seek psychological support on her own, she says by phone. Despite her experience as a litigation interpreter, this judicial process has touched her personally. “It was so painful to remember my past,” she says. When he was seven years old, his father, who had attended high school, was killed in an accident. She was the second of four siblings and her 33-year-old Quechua-speaking mother wanted to seek justice for her husband’s early death.
At that time, Cjuiro was studying second grade in Quechua. But from one day to the next the teaching changed and another teacher began to teach in Spanish. “He punished us, with blowouts, with blows in the hand, I learned Spanish. One day my mother took me to court. He cried because he only spoke Quechua. I had to describe the accident to the lawyer and the prosecutor: I don’t remember what I translated, maybe it was between Spanish and Quechua ”, he recalls. His testimony did not help.
Cjuiro’s mother could also have been one of the victims of forced sterilizations. “Fortunately they didn’t because she was a widow. She told (the nurses): ‘They are not going to raise children because my family is sacred.’ He never accepted that type of intervention ”, he comments. The interpreter assures that when she listens to the women’s stories her soul hurts: “Everything that is spoken is felt in the uterus.”
In a previous job, she was an interpreter for the Ministry of Justice in the registry of victims of forced sterilizations. “There I had the opportunity to see those big wounds in the middle of the field. One day in Paucartambo, a woman had a belly button that had grown into a ball. His son said he wanted to be part of the Army, but could not go because his mother had no way to support herself even for her food. Who would have ordered that kind of work to be done! ”He asks through tears.
The terms ‘forced sterilizations’ or ‘voluntary surgical contraception’ – as the Fujimori government called the method it used to counteract poverty in the 1990s – have no equivalent in Quechua. Translators always mention them in Spanish. “I’m done, wiracocha judge,” Ancalle says each time he finishes his performance. Wiracocha is the word to express respect and formality.
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