The Chaná are an indigenous people who previously lived along the Paraná River in Argentina. The Chaná language was long believed to be extinct, until Blas Jaime stepped in. Jaime, who comes from Chaná descent, learned about his family history from his mother. She considered the Chaná stories and language she shared with young Jaime to be sacred, and told him to protect his heritage by keeping them secret. Decades later, after the passing of his mother and his own retirement, Jaime attempted to find other Chaná speakers to connect with. To his surprise, there was no one else left speaking the language. For the past twenty years, Jaime has made it his mission to teach Chaná to his community and keep the language alive. He worked with a linguist to create a dictionary of Chaná words and has participated in documentaries and public appearances to teach people about the language and culture. The now 89-year-old is passing the torch to his daughter, Evangelina Jaime, who learned Chaná from her father and is looking forward to carrying on his important legacy.
Image via The New York Times
Read other stories from the 1/29/24 newsletter: