Walking the tightrope: The role of Peruvian indigenous interpreters in prior consultation processes

Raquel de Pedro Ricoy, Rosaleen Howard and Luis Andrade Ciudad

The passing of the Prior Consultation Act (2011) was a turning point in Peru’s history: it enshrined the right of indigenous peoples to be consulted prior to the State’s adopting a measure that affects them and to use their own languages during the consultation, which makes interpreting essential. This article focuses on the complexities of the interpreters’ role and how the beneficiaries of their work perceive it. It reveals that the interpreters’ performance is determined by two circumstances: first, it straddles public service and business interpreting; and second, the fact that the interpreters are trained and employed by the State creates tensions in the communication between the latter and the indigenous peoples. The socio-political context and the initiatives designed to ensure compliance with the law will provide a background to our findings. These derive from observation, interviews and meetings with institutional actors and interpreters, and are illustrated by a case study.

Publication history
Table of contents

The aim of this paper is to explore the complex role that Peruvian indigenous interpreters (speakers of Spanish and one or more of the country’s estimated 47 indigenous languages) play in prior consultation processes through a study of the perceptions held by members of indigenous communities who have been involved in consultations. In Latin America, prior consultation is a process whereby indigenous peoples whose collective rights are directly affected by “an administrative or legislative measure,” to quote the language of the legislation, and State representatives engage in a discussion, or “dialogue,” the stated aim of which is to reach a consensus regarding the implementation of the said measure.

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