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SIL’s 60 years of service to the peoples of Peru celebrated in Lima

(September 2006) "On the occasion of its 60th anniversary, the Ministry of Agriculture, on behalf of the Peruvian Government, expresses gratitude for the vital participation of SIL-Peru in the research accomplished on 64 minority languages of our country," Ing. Nelson Larrea, National Coordinator of Pro-Amazonía, Ministry of Agriculture expressed during his speech.

The celebration, held in Magdalena del Mar, Lima, was attended by 350 people from academic circles, government representatives and friends from various organizations all across Peru. The guests and SIL staff filled a beautifully decorated ivory and gold tent to celebrate SIL’s 60 years of service in Peru. Part of the evening’s program was the showing of an audiovisual presentation reviewing the history of SIL in Peru.

In his remarks, Sr. Juan Reymundo, a provincial Academic Coordinator of Bilingual-Intercultural Education for the Ministry of Education, paraphrased a section of the Peruvian national anthem and said, "Thank you, SIL, for serving as a bridge so that little by little the minority groups of the highlands and the jungle can ‘raise their heads in pride rather than be bowed in humiliation.’” He explained, “Quechua-speaking children in the mountains often hang their heads when a Spanish-speaking professor approaches them, because they don’t understand the teacher, but when a professor talks to them in Quechua, they raise their heads and smile! SIL has also served as a bridge in lowering the gap in knowledge and understanding between people in the cities and people in the rural areas."

SIL Executive Director, Dr. John Watters, also addressed the gathering. "Sixty years of service in Peru is a notable achievement. It represents the lives and efforts of three generations of men and women from various nations, all wanting to serve the language communities of the Republic of Peru. It also represents three generations of warm and gracious hospitality from the government of Peru and its institutions. Those governmental institutions have been among the key partners of SIL during its presence in Peru. And we in SIL are deeply grateful. An occasion like this allows us to say ‘thank you,’ even if those words are too small and too few to represent the gratitude we feel and have felt over the years."

Watters concluded, "In closing, may the development of the languages of Peru through linguistic and cultural research, through literacy and multi-lingual education, and through the translation of relevant material provide rich blessings to each community in the present and into coming generations, and may the nation of Peru itself be blessed through these blessings!"

In recognition of SIL’s partnership throughout the country, a large map of Peru indicated the language groups with photos. Several tables displayed publications on various topics.

Dr. Jim Roberts, Director of SIL-Peru, highlighted the richness of the ethnic minority cultures in which SIL has worked. He expressed SIL’s profound gratitude to the Peruvian government and the various Ministries who have worked alongside SIL, especially the Ministry of Education. "These 60 years have enriched our lives for we have had the privilege of personally knowing and working with many of you, in official and private circles. Thank you."

At the invitation of Peru’s government, SIL’s founder Cameron Townsend arrived in Peru in 1946 with SIL linguists to facilitate language development for the ethnic minority linguistic communities. Currently about 80 SIL linguists and literacy personnel are actively working in 35 different language programs.

SIL Peru contributions

Awards presented to SIL from the Peruvian Government

  1. May 1953: Lima, Peru. The Peruvian Government awards to the founder of the Summer Institute of Linguistics the decoration of OFFICIAL of the Order of Merit for Distinguished Services.
  2. July 1963: Lima, Peru. The decoration of COMMANDOR of the Order of Merit for Distinguished Services is awarded to Doctor W. C. Townsend by the President of the Republic of Peru.
  3. August 1963: The MAGISTERIAL PALMS of Peru are awarded to Townsend in consideration of services given to Peruvian national education.
  4. July 1966: The Faculty of Education of the Great National University of San Marcos of Lima names Doctor Townsend Doctor Honoris Causa of the University, for his profound work leading the Linguistic Institute.
  5. 1981: William Cameron Townsend receives the ORDEN DEL SOL award from President Fernando Belaunde Terry during SIL’s 35th anniversary.

25 July 1963—William Cameron Townsend, SIL founder, and Elaine Townsend are decorated for Distinguished Service, Grade of Knight Commander by Peru’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vice-Admiral Edgardo Llosa in Lima, Peru.

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