Explaining «The Achiqueé» (Peruvian customs)

Hello! Let me explain this short legend, which is from the region I grew up in Peru, Áncash.

If you want to read this story first, here is the link to the adaptation I wrote and the narration on Spotify. El Achiquée (Leyenda ancashina).

This story has got a lot of variations since, as you may already know, many Peruvian stories were never written and were just inherited orally to us. And this is not an exception, the Achiqueé or Achikay, as some people also say, is a story I heard first when I was a kid. Although it is about a persecution basically, which makes it ideal for parents to tell when children do not want to eat, go to sleep or something similar.

Well, fact number one, this story reveals a lot of details about the Quechua culture, especially from the central regions, I am talking about Áncash specifically. And Áncash has got many other sub-variants of the Quechua language, that’s why there are two different ways of saying the main character’s name in this story, Achiqueé and Achikay, someone from the Callejón de Huaylas or Vertientes of Áncash would say Achiqueé and someone from the north part would say Achikay. But the most common way of writing it would be Achikay, since Quechua speakers from the south of Ancash usually type it that way too, even though it is not exactly how they pronounce it.

Second, if Achikay is currently the most common way to type it, why did I use the other form? Well, uhm… José María Arguedas, who was probably the first person to write this story down, titled it like Achiqueé, and it got popular with that written form, although the first time I was told this story, I clearly heard Achikay, because I grew up in the north part of Áncash.

Third, many other stories in Áncash include children who are about to be eaten or killed, and my conclusion is that this is the way our parents teach us about life [laughs in pain]. I know it sounds familiar for some people from other cultures too, because, let us face it, many other cultures used to do the same thing and probably still do.

Forth, you will learn that potatoes are sacred for us. Why? This story ends in a place full of potatoes, do you need more explanation than that? Common! Potatoes are part of everyday life in some Andean regions, and they are mostly consumed boiled, not fried, that is not that healthy.

Fifth, the Quechua José María Arguedas used on his book «Mitos, leyendas y cuentos peruanos» is not the right way of writing in Quechua currently. Since this language adopted a brand-new way of writing it down in 1985 and sadly Arguedas died before that time. Although there is not only one way of doing it yet, hahaha. I will leave a screenshot below showing you what letters and vowels can be used when writing in Quechua, but that also depends on the region. The following document link will be at the end, in the References section.

RM. N° 1218-85-ED

Quechua communities from Peru agreed and signed a Ministerial Resolution in 1985 in order to make Quechua standard, then they checked it again in 2014. But there are still some doubts that need to be clarified. And this is a polemic topic which always provokes arguments among Quechua speakers. People from Cuzco, Ayacucho, Áncash, Junín, and many other regions usually argue on this, and frankly, it’s hard to decide, because if we compare how these regions pronounce certain words, you may think they’re not speaking Quechua. So, many words that are included in Arguedas’ version are probably not illegible for Quechua speakers from Bolivia, for example. Some people say Quechua from Áncash sounds so different that they think it is not Quechua anymore, haha. Thus, Arguedas wrote it down just as it sounds but using the Spanish way to reproduce those sounds. For example, when the little girl asks the first animal she meets, the gallinazo, which in English is known as black vulture, she tells him —Uncle gallinazo, hide us under your wings— this sentence was transcribed by Arguedas to —Tie wiscur alas llequic rurincho paquecallam— but the “most” usual way to write it down would be —Tiyu wiskur alas llikik rurinchu pakikallam.

Sixth, Catholic and Andean beliefs are part of this story, and they coexist nowadays, there is no rivalry, and this is how it works. So, almost at the end, Saint Hieronymus appears as a savior, helping the children get to their final destination, which also varies a lot, people change the name of the saint and the town’s name too, so that it fits to where they are. In this story the place is Taricá, which is one district in Huarás province. But there are different versions, others may say “No! it was not Saint Hieronymus who helped them, it was Saint Peter” or “It was Mary, Jesus’ mother”. So that’s the presence of the Catholic religion in Áncash, and on the other hand, the Andean beliefs are also present, in the Andes animals have more than one meaning, and sometimes they represent some divinities, take the Condor as an example. And these animals are respected because they also contribute to their communities in many natural ways. There is a version where is actually the Condor who takes the children to their final destination and not any Catholic saint or patron. So, that was number six, and just to be clear, I like the idea that there are different versions, but stop arguing about whether one is the real one and the other is not. Let us just enjoy the fact there is no limit to our imagination and we can respect everyone’s believes.

Seventh, legends and myths are always created to explain stuff, such as how the Andes originated? Why do animals look like they look? You know, it is part of every culture and this is not the exception. That is why this legend explains how some animals got their skills or physical appearance and how the Andes, the mountains, originated.

Eighth, why is it «el Achiqueé» and not «la Achiqueé»? I know the story describes the Achiqueé as an old woman, and it is still known as «el Achiqueé» in Spanish. For this matter, I have got two possible explanations. One of them is a linguistic phenomenon called cacophony, there is a possibility that saying «la Achiqueé» or «la Achikay» was annoying to hear for people who used to tell this story from one generation to another. And the other one would be the confusion Quechua speakers get when using masculine and feminine articles for certain nouns. In Quechua, articles to determine whether a noun is feminine or masculine are not necessary —in Spanish they are. So, when they are learning Spanish as a second language, some of them tend to confuse those articles. That is probably why this story became famous as «el Achiqueé» and not as «la Achiqueé». But I am not sure about what the right explanation would be. More investigation is required.

I think that is it. It was fun doing this. There are going to be more episodes like these explaining some narrations. If you do like them, you can help us create more of them just by sharing this content with your friends or relatives, it is as easy as that. Thanks for reading! This is Conpedepatria. Learning together.


Arguedas, J. y Ríos, F. (2011). Mitos, leyendas y cuentos peruanos. Lima: Santillana S.A.

Julca, F. y Julca, C. (2016). Quechua: Riqueza léxica y expresiva. Huarás: Killa Editorial EIRL.

Normas de Educación Intercultural Bilingüe (EIB). (18 de noviembre de 1985). Resolución Ministerial Nº 1218-85-ED. Obtenido de Gestión de idiomas: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_KWyVaW25MjRG93cDRONm5heG8/view

Una respuesta a “Explaining «The Achiqueé» (Peruvian customs)”

Deja una respuesta

Introduce tus datos o haz clic en un icono para iniciar sesión:

Logo de WordPress.com

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de WordPress.com. Salir /  Cambiar )

Imagen de Twitter

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Twitter. Salir /  Cambiar )

Foto de Facebook

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Facebook. Salir /  Cambiar )

Conectando a %s

Crea un sitio web o blog en WordPress.com

A %d blogueros les gusta esto: