Colombia celebrates "Feast of the Languages"

15:12, May 05, 2011      

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A "Feast of the Languages" opened here Wednesday to celebrate Colombia's cultural diversity and promote literary works in several rare indegenous dialects as part of the Bogota Book Fair from May 4 to 16.

Native representatives and African descendants recited poems in their mother tongues to launch the 30 cultural activities that will be held during the fair to spread the legacy of their ancestors.

Eliecer Gutierrez, a Huitoto indigenous community representative in southern Colombia told Xinhua "the Feast of the Languages" served as a bridge for strengthening inter-ethnic coexistence in Latin America.

Each language people speak had its own legacy and a particular vision of the world, he said, adding this was what made the preservation of native languages threathened by extinction so important.

Christian Volkmann, of the Colombian office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the launch the event presented an important step towards improving respect for differences.

"Everyone who has suffered from discrimination in his life knows how much a disparaging look hurts. A bad joke, an insult or sometimes the smallest gestures reveal what the other person thinks," Volkmann said.

For her part, Andrea Echeverri, lead singer of the band Aterciopelados, told Xinhua the culture, language and wisdom of Colombian indigenous communities should be valued and protected as a invaluable national heritage.

A total of 65 different indigenous languages are spoken in Colombia, of which 24 are in danger of disappearing because they have less than 50 speakers left. Organizers of the event said these included the Carijona, Totoro and Pisamira languages, while the Nonuya language only had three speakers left and the Tinigua language only one.

The book fair was expected to attract more than 400,000 visitors from home and abroad, organizers said.

Source: Xinhua

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