A land of many tongues.
In dedicating his treatise on Spanish grammar to Queen Isabella in 1492, Antonio de Nebrija explained that it would help to teach Spanish to the barbarous peoples conquered by Spain: “Language has always been the companion of empire.” Yet Spanish remained a minority language in Peru for centuries after the Conquest. The most widely spoken languages were Quechua, the imperial tongue of the Inca empire, and Aymara, the dominant language of the altiplano south of Cuzco. But there were dozens of other Indian languages, only a few of which were documented by Spanish authors. Spanish priests were required to learn and preach in the languages of their Indian parishioners, above all in Aymara and Quechua, which (far from dying out) thrived and expanded under Spanish rule.