Native Village
Youth and Education news 
Volume 4 December, 2011
Rise Of Indigenous Actress Marks Change In Peru
Condensed by Native Village

Peru: A Peruvian film, The Milk of Sorrow, won top honors at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival. When lead actress Magaly Solier accepted the award, she did something surprising she accepted it singing a song in Quechua, an indigenous language of Peru.

More than 50% of Peru's population are indigenous people, and about 50% of Peruvians live in poverty. The country has long been run by a small elite. But that's beginning to change as Solier and others with indigenous roots move into the cultural and political spotlight.

Solier grew up in a family of Quechua farmers in Peru's highlands. She speaks both Quecha and Spanish, but was first cautioned against  speaking Quechua in public.

"People thought that I would be laughed at," Solier says. "My family, my friends they told me, 'Don't speak in Quechua. You'll be humiliated; you'll get knocked down; you'll be made fun of.'"

Magaly grew up in a region affected by violent repression in the 1980s, She learned when to be quiet, but she also witnessed the power of taking a stand.

"If you made noise, the Shining Path guerrillas would come, take you away, and kill you," she says of the Maoist insurgency that terrorized her town. "In the end, it was the local people who got rid of the violence; who began to arm themselves and make rounds to keep the community safe. We all took part in those patrols women, children too and we all had weapons, whether it was just a rock, or a gun. That was how we conquered our fear."

In The Milk of Sorrow, Solier plays a modern day Peruvian woman affected by the same rural violence.

"When I got to Lima [Peru], the music I'd sung growing up was looked down upon," Solier says. "It was something that people thought was only good for getting drunk and getting into fights. I said to myself, 'People in the capitol and foreigners, they don't know what the music is really like where I'm from.' I wanted to do something different."

Solier's rise to international stardom represents a cultural shift in Peru. As the economy improves and democracy takes force, other indigenous Peruvians are becoming more prominent. This includes Ollanta Humala who was elected to be Peru's next president.

While many were jolted by Humala's election, Solier believes people should wait to make up their minds about him.

"Whether he'll do good or bad, no one knows yet," Solier says. "Human beings that haven't had the same opportunities you have to give us a chance in order to find out what we'll actually do."

Magaly Solier, Quechua
Scene from "Sing To Me"

Magaly Solier,
Scene From: "Lost Souls

Magaly Solier accepts award with song (begins at 5:31)

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