Gloria Cáceres Vargas Interview: “The Quechua Language and the Peruvian Hairless Dog”

Learn more about Gloria Cáceres Vargas and her commitment to the Peruvian Hairless Dog …

By Pedro-Santiago Allemant – Association pour la protection du patrimoine péruvien (Association for the Protection of Peruvian Heritage, or APPP).


When did you discover your vocation for writing and translating in the Quechua language?

When I was a student at the Federico Villarreal University, around 1967, my Latin American Literature professor asked me to translate into Spanish a text in Quechua. That was my first attempt at translation. I had an oral command of both languages but it was then I found out I could write texts in Quechua.

What relationship does the Quechua language have with Peruvian fauna?

It’s a close relationship because the fauna, the flora, and other cultural elements such as language, music, etc., are part of our culture and reality. In addition, language is the most important element because it transmits a people’s worldview. Flora and fauna have always been present in ours lives and have been documented in many stories and in the huacos (ceremonial pottery) of our ancestral cultures.

Have you had dogs at some point in your childhood or youth?

I remember that I had doggies as a child; one, especially, called Kajera. She was not only a dog that accompanied us, in our games she was everything: sometimes she was a cow, others, a donkey, a bird, etc. Besides playing with us, she was an assistant to my father: she was the one in charge of caring for and herding the cows. I’ve always had doggies because they’re very tender and give you affection, no strings attached—or perhaps just in turn for your attention.

Luna Pelota (representative of the breed Perro sin Pelo del Perú) – photo by Patricia Cáceres Murga (owner of Luna Pelota).

What do you think about the Peruvian Hairless Dog?

In my childhood and youth I had no contact with Hairless Dogs. I had dogs of different breeds and also chusquitos (mutts) that didn’t require much care, until one day my niece appeared with a little chocolate-colored Hairless Dog, all ears and eyes. She called her Luna Pelota (Ball Moon). She was tiny. When I petted her I felt that her skin was soft and its feel instilled a certain tenderness: it was like caressing a baby. From that moment on, I felt she was just another member of the family who took over all our affection.

Why did you decide to support the filmmakers of the “El Perro sin Pelo del Perú” (The Peruvian Hairless Dog) documentary by translating it into Quechua?

When I met Pedro-Santiago at the UNESCO head office in Paris in 2015 and found out he was working on a project about the Peruvian Hairless Dog, I was very excited. To know that there are people like him, who invest themselves into recovering and reestablishing the living elements of our culture, in this case the Perumanta Q’ala Allqu (Peruvian Hairless Dog), without any monetary interest, aroused my admiration and the desire in me to support them, in this case in the only way I can: by translating into Quechua the documentary and other material he’s so kind as to intrust me with. Both Pedro-Santiago and François invest their time, their passion, and their money into making a documentary that reestablishes ​​the presence of this titan of history—not only Peruvian history, but American history—a doggy that has withstood time despite harsh local weather conditions.

In your opinion, what is the relationship between the Quechua language and the Peruvian Hairless Dog?

Both the Quechua language and the Peruvian Hairless Dog are cultural elements that have endured the harshness of time and historical evolution. One example is that Quechua has the word allqu (dog), which refers to the existence of the dog. Now, since Quechua is a linguistic family, in all its varieties there is a word for this animal, albeit with slight variations: / alqu / ~ / alkho /, which means that the dog has always been present in the life of Peruvian man throughout history.

According to the film, we can observe that the Peruvian Hairless Dog is acquiring some international fame and is the focus for accredited scientists and foreign professionals who, obviously, don’t speak Quechua; so how does it feel to be taking their testimonies and arguments into the Quechua language, the native language of the place of origin of this millenary dog breed?

For me, translating into Quechua the opinion of accredited Peruvian and foreign scientists and professionals is, in every sense, a rewarding and enriching experience. Moreover, I’m proud to contribute to their findings being known in the Quechua language, not only because it universalizes the Peruvian Hairless Dog, but also because we make Quechua a language to translate into and from, i.e. a language of modern communication. Historically, dog has always lived with man, accompanying him, so both need specialists in this breed and social scientists, respectively, to contribute to what we know about each in order to better appreciate each, because they’re both alive to this day, and that is something of which to be proud.

Gloria Cáceres Vargas (professor, writer, translator of the Quechua language and translator of the film “El Perro sin Pelo del Perú”) and Túpac (representative of the breed Perro sin Pelo del Perú of the Site Museum of Pachacamac). Photo by APPP ©appp 2018

During your participation in the conference that took place at the Pachacamac Museum you were able to meet Túpac (one of the canine protagonists of the film); what did you feel when you saw him in person after having seen him in the film portrayed as a mythical, native Peruvian dog?

Generally, all doggies awaken in me great tenderness. I think all these little animals need to do to become more human is to learn to talk! So, when I saw Túpac, one of the protagonists of the documentary, I approached him, I took his paws in my hands and whispered to him my affection in Quechua, and he stood still. There was a moment of communion. I felt he was mine. He, so unassuming in spite of being one of the key characters, went over into Santiago’s arms and remained with him during the remainder of the conference after the documentary’s projection.

Luna Pelota (representative of the breed Perro sin Pelo del Perú) – photo by Patricia Cáceres Murga (owner of Luna Pelota).

Can you tell us more about “Luna Pelota”?

Luna Pelota arrived in our lives when she was 5 months old. She adapted to our family with a certain reticence at first but then she made Patty her own (Patty’s her “mother”), as a matter of fact she made the entire family her own. When she meets someone new she’s distrusting at first but then she approaches the stranger and lets herself be loved. She’ll soon be five years old.

How’s your relationship with her?

My relationship with her is very close. She’s another member of the family. Luna Pelota lives with other doggies of other breeds but has a preferential place, which she herself has imposed on everyone! She’s a veritable queen. As well she should be, being the daughter of a canine competition champion. She’s very spoiled but, at the same time, smart.

What future would you wish for her?

For Luna Pelota we wish the best. That she remains happy, that she enjoys good health, so that she always remains by our side. Had we trained her, I’m sure she’d been a champion like her mother because she’s really pretty, smart, and elegant.

In regards to other dogs of this breed, especially those that are abandoned and unappreciated, we call on the Peruvian government to protect them effectively. Despite the existence of a law that declares them as Living Heritage, they’re not given the corresponding treatment. The government should promote vaccination campaigns, as well as sterilization campaigns because, when in heat, stray Hairless females often crossbreed, with a rather undesirable result. I congratulate families that have a Hairless dog at home, and entrust them with looking out for the other doggies that are out there with no food or medical attention.

Gloria Cáceres Vargas was born in Ayacucho-Peru, May 2, 1947. She’s a writer, translator and professor of Peruvian Literature and Languages. She’s contributed to both Quechuan and Peruvian Spanish Literature with poems and stories.

Among her literary oeuvre in both Spanish and Southern Quechua there are the books of poems: Riqsinakusun/ Conozcámonos (Let’s Know Each Other), Munakuwaptiykiqa/ Si tú me quisieras (If You Loved Me), Wiñay suyasqayki / Te esperaré siempre (I’ll Wait for You Forever), and Yuyaypa k’anchaqnin / Fulgor de mis recuerdos (The Glare of My Memories).

She’s translated literary texts from Spanish to Quechua, among them texts by José María Arguedas: Warma kunay (Child’s love) (1935), Yawar willay (Blood warning) (1945), and Hijo solo (Son alone) (1957), translated and published in 2011.

She’s been invited to participate in presentations at the Porras Barrenechea Institute (Lima, 2015), the UNESCO head office (Paris, 2015), the Huamanga National University (Ayacucho, 2017), the Peruvian Consulate in Florence (Florence, 2017), the Sapienza University (Rome, 2017), among others.

In addition, she’s contributed to awareness campaigns for the protection of the Peruvian Hairless Dog by translating into the Quechua language the documentary film “El Perro sin Pelo del Perú” (The Peruvian Hairless Dog), as well as translating and live-interpreting videos and lectures for the Association pour la protection du patrimoine péruvien (Association for the Protection of Peruvian Heritage, or APPP).

Her contribution to the dissemination and preservation of tangible and intangible Peruvian cultural heritage has been highly recognized by various world institutions.