Rosa Andrade, the last female speaker of an Amazonian indigenous language, resigaro, was murdered on November 25 in the northern jungles of Peru, but the news took long to get out because hundreds of the isolated villages in the Amazon and in the Andes lack a mobile signal or Internet capabilities. Two months later, her relatives worry about whether they will ever get justice: they wait for the results of an investigation and demand preventive detention of the suspect.
“She was beheaded. Her head was not found, neither her heart,” reported her niece, Frida Vega.
Andrade, who was 67, was one of the few speakers of ocaina language – less than 40 according to the 2007 census – spoken among people who live on the border of Colombia and Peru.
Since her death, there is just one speaker left of resigaro in Peru: Pablo Andrade, brother of the victim.
In Loreto region, the relatives of Andrade fear that the prosecutor will close the case without indicting the suspect, who was set free after a hearing on December 1. Neighbors of the victim found the man near the crime scene and lead him to the police.
“The indicted, Ruben Mendoza is bound, every 15 days, to sign a notebook at the town courthouse in Caballococha (Loreto) and requires a judge authorization if he needs to leave the town,” said Federico Contreras, lawyer of the Andrade family, on January 20 in a phone interview with ICMN.
Contreras also stated that on December 3, he appealed and asked for the preventive detention of Mendoza.
“We are waiting for a judge to decide about it in a penal courtroom in Iquitos, the capital of Loreto,” remarked Contreras.
Vega said that someone ordered the killing. Rosa Andrade used to travel from her village – Nueva Esperanza – to the city of Iquitos to do some paperwork in order to collect her son Felipe’s pension. He died in a suspicious accident in 2015.
“My aunt Rosa told me that she was sad because she received constant threats from her former daughter-in-law. In November, the woman said to her: ‘You won’t eat again with your son’s money,’” recalled Vega.
Vega says, “We do not know quite well how the justice works. The prosecutor, Basilio, is the same man who closed the case of my cousin Felipe’s accident in 2015, with no further investigation. There are many complaints against him.”
The languages of Peru
According to the Ministry of Culture, 47 indigenous languages are spoken in Peru, even though Spanish, Quechua and Aymara are recognized as the official languages.
Since October 2016, Rosa and Pablo Andrade were preparing a project with the Ministry of Culture to document the resigaro language and update the books of resigaro grammar and dictionary made in the 1950s by the Summer Institute of Language, that promoted the translation of the bible.
Andrade was considered a carrier of wisdom and culture in her community, described the anthropologist and researcher Alberto Chirif, a renowned expert in the Amazonian peoples.
After the murder, an officer from the Ministry of Education, Natalia Verastegui, said on Facebook that in Nueva Esperanza, the town were Rosa Andrade lived, none of the children speak resigaro or ocaina. The wise and old lady was prepared to teach them songs and ancient stories in both indigenous languages, but the violence deterred the plans.
During a workshop about ocaina language in 2016, Mrs. Andrade told Verastegui that she liked to speak with her brother Pablo in resigaro, so they could remember their mother.
Chirif also stated that most of Nueva Esperanza inhabitants are ocaina people, as Rosa Andrade’s father. Both Indigenous Peoples, resigaro and ocaina, were decimated along the age of rubber extraction.
“They were victims of the cruelty of the patrons who extracted the wild rubber, during the boom of prices since XIX until 1914,” remembered Chirif.