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Complex Matter

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, illiterate means having little or no education; more specifically, being unable to read or write. Now, let us dive into this definition.


By: Irina Quispe


Writing is related to forming words by inscribing characters or symbols on a surface with an instrument. At the same time, ability refers to sufficient power, skill, or resources to do something. Although all these ideas make sense, there is still a bitter aftertaste. Before I continue, this brief article will be more personal. The following happened in my community, which is located in Carabayllo, Lima, Peru. I hope my subjectivity will not be an obstacle for you to finish reading the story.



My neighbor (I will call her María) could write her name and sign and read basic sentences, so she was not illiterate according to the definition above. However, she struggled with reading and oral comprehension. She owned a fertile terrain for crop production and raised some farm animals. Usually, land properties are larger far from cities than in urban areas, but houses are smaller than residential buildings. Most of her land was unoccupied since she was saving money to build a better place in the future (María could not invest in breeding more animals or irrigation). One day, she received a strange document at her doorstep. She did not understand what it said but looked at the cover page and asked for help. It was a plaint of illegal occupation of private property. The unpleasant and nonsense surprise made her almost faint.


The plaintiff (I will call him Juan) said that years ago, he built his house in the place currently used by María, but mass movements destroyed it. He did not have further evidence (for example, pictures of the years he talked about). The police called some neighbors as witnesses, my family included. After realizing the absurdity of his claims, he left the case. The issue was more complex than portraying Juan as a villain, though. Of course, he was interested in occupying María’s land. However, weeks later, we understood that people with self-serving purposes were manipulating him. Not only do they have economic power, but they also have influential contacts.


Whenever I remember this experience, I ask myself: what would have happened if no one in the neighborhood knew how to read? Perhaps, María would not have known that she was being sued unjustly. Maybe, the case would have gone in favor of the plaintiff. It is uncertain. What is true is that reading comprehension is fundamental. Understanding what we read helps protect our rights. To conclude, more actions should be taken to reduce the illiterate population. It is not as easy as being able to write and read; comprehension is needed.



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