Aymara is a Native American language and one of the official languages of Peru and Bolivia. There are roughly two million Aymara speakers in Bolivia and almost three million in total in South America. Members of Rising Voices grantee Voces Bolivianas realized that in internet there are less materials available in their mother tongue Aymara. Ruben Hilary, with some local volunteers of El Alto, Bolivia, established the virtual community Jaqi Aru. The goal of the Jaqi Aru website is highlighting and spreading Aymara language in internet through creation of digital media contents, which involves translation, use of multimedia and social media tools.
Aymara has gradually lost speakers both to Spanish and to Quechua in the past century and many Aymara speakers now speak Quechua, another South American native language. Mario Duran notes an interesting fact:
Bolivia and Peru have the highest Aymara-speaking population, but Chile, with a a lot smaller Aymara-speaking population has a greater number of web pages in Aymara.
So why is it worth learning Aymara and posting contents online? Sentir Bolivia writes [es]:
There is much interest, both by Bolivian locals and diaspora. We want to show that the Aymara language is more alive than ever, which lives in the hearts of our people. That is not a dead language, it is appropriate and in constant motion.
Here is a video presentation [es] by Ruben Hilare and Edwin Quispe at the Barcamp Santa Cruz.
Ruben Hilary of Jaqi Aru and Voces Bolivianas has also started the Aymara translation page of Global Voices. In the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2010 in Chile last May, Ruben Hilary discussed about the Jaqi Aru project in a session titled “Indigenous languages online – challenges and opportunities”. Here is an excerpt from the session note by Eduardo Avila:
The goal of the Jaqi Aru project is to increase the presence of Aymara on the internet through 5 main activities, one of which is translations for the Lingua project site Global Voices in Aymara. Volunteers have been translating articles from Global Voices in Spanish for the past 7 months. In addition, the group has a collective blog site, uses web 2.0 tools like Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube, has been learning to subtitle videos on the platform DotSub, and has been starting to participate in the Wikipedia in Aymara community.
This is important for young people and when they look for information. They don't find a lot of information in Aymara and to make it available online. In addition, working with Wikipedia in Aymara may make it easier for people in the rural parts of the country access information in their own language through the use of offline capabilities. [..]
Q. What are the Aymara young people writing about?
Most of the members of the Jaqi Aru project live in the city of El Alto, which is a city comprised of migrants from the Altiplano. Some have moved to the city as young adults, others as children, and still others were born in the city. However, everyone has relatives in their communities of origin. Often they return home for festivities or to visit relatives, and they often write about their communities. There are some amazing pictures taken by some of the members that tourists or other Bolivians do not have access to, and that is reflected in the group blog.