Catherine Binet

Catherine Binet (Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team – EPAF): Before going to university, Catherine interned at EDUCA, a Mexican NGO that promotes community development in the department of Oaxaca. Catherine completed her undergraduate studies in International Development and Hispanic Languages at McGill University, where she graduated with first class honours. At the time of her fellowship, she was studying for a Masters degree in International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa. The Human Rights Internet in Ottawa supported Catherine’s fellowship.

Coca Quintu

24 Jun

This post is going to be a very short one, as things have been rather hectic these last few days. I came back from a wonderful, week-long trip to the Pampa-Qaracha region of Ayacucho on Tuesday, and will be writing a full report once I have had time to process all of the material that I collected.

In the meantime, since I have not posted in a while, I would like to share a short video that I filmed in one of the violence-affected communities that I had a chance to visit on this trip, Sacsamarca. It captures a moment that moved many of those of us who were present to the brink of tears, when three ladies from the Association of Relatives Affected by the Political Violence sang a traditional song entitled “Coca Quintu”. I have no doubt that much of the meaning and beauty of the song gets lost in translation (from Quechua to Spanish, then to English), but here is a rough translation of the fragments that the ladies Sacsamarca sang for us:

Coca quintucha, hoja redonda
Coca quintucha, hoja redonda
Qamsi yachanki ñoqap vidayta
Patacruz patapi waqallasqayta;
Qamsi yachanki ñuqap surtiyta
Challwamayupi llakillasqayta.

Panteón punkucha, fierro rejillas
Panteón punkucha, fierro rejillas,
Punkuchaykita kichaykullaway
Kuyasqay yanaywan tinkuy kunaypaq,
Punkuchaykita kichay kullaway
Wayllusqay yanaywan tupay kunaypaq.

Rough translation:

Little round coca leaf
Little round coca leaf
You know my life
How much I have cried in Patacruz
You know my fortune
How much I have suffered in Challwamayu
How much I have cried in Patacruz

Iron-gated cemetery
Iron-gated cemetery
Open your doors for me
So I can reunite with my husband
Open your doors for me
So I can reunite with my husband
So I can converse with my husband

Renzo, a historian that works in the memory area of EPAF and who travelled with us on this trip, explained to me that coca quintu are small and round “baby” coca leaves. In the Andes, the coca quintu are sacred, and it is believed that they can tell the future. For example, people will ask the coca quintu to tell them whether they will be in good health in the future, or to indicate whether something that has been lost will be found again. In this emotional rendition of the song, which the ladies adapted to include the names of nearby places, a woman is asking the coca quintu to indicate the whereabouts of her missing husband so she can meet and converse with him again. My thanks to Renzo for transcribing the song in Quechua and translating it to Spanish.


Posted By Catherine Binet

Posted Jun 24th, 2011

1 Comment

  • Karin

    June 26, 2011


    These women are such incredible heros of the movement for memory and have evolved into incredibly strong voices. Thank you for helping us to hear them and sharing the meaning of this song Catherine, truly highlighting the diverse ways in which these women can tell their story.

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