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Quechua, Kechua (both: kĕchˈo͞oə, –wä), or Quichua (kēchˈwä), linguistic family belonging to the Andean branch of the Andean-Equatorial stock of Native American languages (mainly in South America). Encompassing far more native speakers than any other aboriginal language group in the Americas, the languages of the Quechuan family are spoken by peoples in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and Chile. There is a modern standard language of this family spoken by close to 10 million indigenous people in Peru and 2 million in Bolivia, as well as smaller populations in Ecuador and Argentina. Some 28 Quechuan languages are still in use. The official language of the ancient Inca empire, also called Quechua, was of this family. In the early 1400s, Quechua was dominant in S Peru. As the Incas' empire expanded, their language became the administrative and commercial tongue from N Ecuador to central Chile. After their conquest of the Incas in the 16th cent., the Spaniards spread the use of Quechua beyond the Inca empire.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Quichua, or Keshua, the largest of the present-day Indian peoples of South America, who make up a considerable part of the population of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Quechua also live in northern Chile and Argentina. The total population amounts to approximately 10 million (1970, estimate). They speak Quechuan. Most Quechua are Catholics, but vestiges of pre-Christian religious beliefs are maintained.

The rise of the Inca empire contributed to the ethnic solidarity of the Quechua tribes. The Spanish conquest of the 16th century and various forms of slaveholding and feudal exploitation of the Quechua by the conquerors led to the breakdown of tribal barriers, the development of a liberation movement, and the formation of a unified popular language. The revolt of Tupac-Amaru in the early 1780’s played an important role in the formation of the Quechua nationality. The Quechua nationality, which included many ethnic groups, was formed by the end of the colonial period (first quarter of the 19th century). The development of commodity-money relations facilitated the consolidation of economic ties among Quechua living in different regions.

The Quechua engage mainly in agriculture and, to a lesser extent, handicrafts (making of utensils, clothing, footwear, musical instruments, etc.). The small working class is concentrated primarily in the mining and textile industries; the Quechua bourgeoisie is few in number. The Quechua’s national revolutionary struggle for land and equality of rights and their fight against feudal and capitalist exploitation have often taken the form of powerful popular uprisings. The present-day national revolutionary movement of the Quechua is taking place within the general democratic movements of the countries in which they live.


Narody Ameriki, vol. 2. Moscow, 1959. (Bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.



The Quechua are a people living in the southern Peruvian Andes. According to the early accounts of colonial, missionary priests, the Quechua have always been preoccupied with dreams and dream interpretation. Specially designated ritual specialists were considered particularly significant. In the pre-conquest period, indigenous curers attributed their calling to dreams, and dream specialists were employed for prognostication by the state.

Dreams are regarded by contemporary Quechua as premonitory signs about events of the day on which they are dreamed. They are said to be world-creating, in that they literally forecast an event. Generally, under normal circumstances, a person arises from sleep by standing first on the right foot, but when a bad omen appears in a dream, one stands first on the left foot.

In addition, dreams can be treated as a narrative from which particular elements are chosen and interpreted according to a lexicon of dream signs, which supplies a general conventional meaning for each. Selecting readily discernible dream signs and taking individual situational factors into account allows for a more specific interpretation, although the interpretation may have absolutely nothing to do with the manifest content of the narrative apart from the interpreted signs.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.