Cristina Calderon died on Wednesday, aged 93. She had mastered the Yamana language of the Yagan community and after the death of her family in 2003 was the last person within the world who could speak it An indigenous language from South America’s remotest south has near vanished after the death of its last living speaker and guardian of its ancestral culture. Cristina Calderon failed on Wednesday, aged 93. She had learned the Yamana language of the Yagan community and after the death of her family in 2003 was the last person within the world who could speak it.
She worked to save lots of her knowledge by creating a wordbook of the language with paraphrases to Spanish. “ With her, a veritably important part of the artistic memory of our people is gone,” said Lidia Gonzalez, Calderon’s predecessor, on Twitter. Gonzalez is one of all the representatives presently drafting a backup constitution in Chile. “ The wordbook, still, meant there was a possibility of conserving the language in some form,” she said.
“ Although together with her unfortunate death, a wealth of especially precious empirical knowledge is lost in verbal terms, the liability of delivering and marshaling the language remains open,” she said. Although there are still some dozen Yagans left, over the generations people from the community stopped learning the language, which was considered “ insulated” since it was problematic to see the origin of its words.
Calderon lived in a simple house and made a living selling knitted socks within the Chilean city of Villa Ukika, a city created by the Yagan people on the outskirts of Puerto Williams. The ancestral group habituated people the archipelagos of South America’s extreme south, now Chile and Argentina, a part which nudges towards the frozen Antarctic.