Rhetorical elements

Speaking in a rapid manner, the supplicant invokes the spirit of the ancestors and the patron saint of San Juan Quiahije, Saint John the Baptist, to intercede on behalf of the younger generation. The prayer achieves its resonance through extensive use of repetition, refrains, parallelism, and formulaic expressions (H. Cruz 2014).

Members of the community hold prayers such as this to be beautiful and powerful statements of their survival. Their beauty lies in the juxtaposition of simple but profound concepts. Line 2, for instance, is a crescendo that lists the life accomplishments of the ancestors: no4 yqu2, no4 ylu3, no4 nsuq3, no4 nsen42 ‘those who survived, those who thrived, those who matured, those who multiplied.’ These words express the ancestors’ successful completion of the different stages of their lives starting with surviving childhood, growing and thriving, then maturing, and ultimately multiplying. Because mortality rates were very high in SJQ before the introduction of modern medicine, the passage through these different stages of life was not a given, and thus celebrated.

Zurita’s prayer also shows two types of parallelism, one occurring within adjacent lines and another across verse lines. Line 3, for example, illustrates the use of a repeated grammatical structure within a line: No4 ya42 tykwi4, no4 ya42 nyi4, no4 ya42 ykwa4 ‘Those who lived entirely, those who lived a righteous life, those who lived evenly’. Each of these phrases reinforces an aspect of the community’s standards for living a virtuous life.

Examples 2 and 4 illustrate parallelism across non-adjacent lines. Line 4—Sa4-kwa20 nya14 kqu0, sa4-kwa20 nya14 klu0, sa4-kwa20 nya14 ksuq0, sa4-kwa20 nya14 kxin0 ‘So too may they survive, so too may they thrive, so too may they mature, so too may they multiply.’—echoes Line 2, but differs in aspect. Line 2 refers to past generations and is inflected in the completive aspect. Line 4, on the other hand, is inflected in the potential aspect and refers to the new generation.

Formulaic expressions are pervasive in this text and they involve combinations of various grammatical categories (e.g., noun phrases: qyu1 kla24/qan1 kla24 ‘old man/old woman’ in line 1 and verb phrases: sqwa20 yaq1/sqwa20 skon1 ‘give a hand/ give an arm’ in line 8). Formulas are used to economize words but still convey human abstractions, emotions, and observations poignantly and memorably. Many of the formulaic expressions also evoke a third meaning, which is described by Garibay (1953) as difrasismo. Employing a formulaic expression containing two verbs of position in line 4, tyi20 ton10 ‘to stand’ and tyi20 kqan24 ‘to sit (on the ground)’, the orator expresses the wish that the new generation will become a powerful force for their families and their community.