As frozen in time, surrounded by the majestic Salkantay, Veronica and Soray is Chinchero, the tranquil village of weavers and, probably, the best preserved Andean traditions keeper -costumes, quechua and ancestral customs- wide Sacred Valley.
The villagers still live in Chinchero Inca constructions inherited from their ancestors, here stands out the Church of Our Lady of Monserrat, built in 1607, on what would have been the palace of Inca Tupac Yupanqui. Inside, we found an altar carved in gold leaf Baroque, dedicated to Our Lady of the Nativity. Its walls are decorated with works by Diego Quispe Tito, leader of the Cusco School.
The fabrics made by the people of Chinchero are loaded with symbolism and is a great way to keep alive their history, expressing, in their designs and colors, their knowledge about planting and harvesting seasons as well as the reproductive cycles of the herds, both transcendental activities for the community.
There are several shops in the village where you can see the textile production -process that develops in the same way that was done since the days of ethnic Killke before the Incas- and buy one of these looms full of history and Andean tradition.
Another attraction is the Chinchero Sunday market. In this fair, which lasts one day, the native settlers, dressed in colorful costumes, come down from their communities and crowd into the main square to exchange their products, some using the ancient technique of barter or exchange.
Chinchero is 28 km northwest of Cusco and is a must to learn more about the traditional customs of the Andes resident.
Behind its heavy wooden doors and completely isolated from the external vicissitudes, lived the nuns at the Monastery of St. Catherine of Siena, a religious citadel founded during the reign of Viceroy Francisco Toledo, at the request of council, in 1579.
Located in the historic center of Arequipa, a city founded by the Spanish in 1540, would be Doña Maria de Guzman, widow of Diego Hernández de Mendoza, the first settler and prioress of Saint Catherine, who after the death of her husband decided to retreat to the monastery, to which she gave all of her possessions. From 1580, she would allow the entry of other women -Creole, mestizo and daughters of noble families- to take the habits and by the mid-eighteenth century, the citadel was known to be the home of 300 nuns, who could not leave the monastery or be seen and could only talk to their families -and maidens of service- with a permission and under supervision.
In 1970, 391 years after its foundation, the Monastery of Santa Catalina opened its doors to unveil its secrets and mysteries. Currently, 26 religious live there between mothers and novices.
The architectural style is mainly colonial monastery, but, unlike other colonial centers in this part of Latin America, of mixed nature, resulting from the fusion of Spanish and native elements. The charm of this citadel lies in the strength and plasticity of their volumes, and beauty, that teachers and masons achieved in the architecture of the enclosures.
Other attractions of the monastery are the splendid works of art, such as its impressive baroque altar, its important art gallery -which contains paintings of the Cusco School-, a series of paintings depicting the life of St. Catherine of Siena, and the murals -some still in restoration- that can be seen all over the place.
The centenary district of T’oqocachi (“salt cave”), is already part of the oldest legends that are told in Cusco. During the Inca times, it’s believe that the people who inhabited it dedicated to agriculture. Two Ayllus coexisted here: Hatun Ayllu and Capac Ayllu. The water abundance, which came out of its valleys, its excellent microweathers and and strategic location from where you could see the entire land, made it the ideal place to live.
T’oqocachi rose from the city of Cusco, surrounding the Tullumayo river, in a series of steep terraces where we found fields and diverse sanctuaries, like the one dedicated to Illampa, god of thunder and rain. This is the area where the huacas of Huiracocha Incas, Tupac Yupanqui and Huayna Capac, were located and was also the way from where, through Sacsayhuaman, came the Inca Trail to the rugged mountains of the Antisuyo jungle.
In 1562, San Blas church was raised on the Inca temple of Illampa, an austere chapelle in honor of bishop and martyr Blas of Sebaste, with the idea of catechize the indians. This is how the colonial invasion of T’oqocachi began. The district became a crossbreed of races and albergued many artists and artisans. To them is attribute the elaboration of one of the most representative pieces of jewelry from the colonial art of our continent: The Pulpit of San Blas.
Impeccably carved in cedar wood, it cannot be established who was the creator of The Pulpit of San Blas, nor how much time lasted its creation, but documentation says that to 1677, master Mateo Tuyri Tucap, neighbor of San Sebastian’s parish, agreed that the chapel altarpiece were decorated with gold leaf. It is very likely that Tuyri Tupac had made these crafts with his son Juan Tomas, who worked at the church from 1677 to 1679.
These days, San Blas -just a few blocks away from the Plaza de Armas of Cusco- is full of craft shops and sophisticated restaurant, bars and cafes. Nevertheless, workshops of Cusco artists can still be observed on the outside of the Plaza, this are the ones that keep the tradition and essence of the ancient Inca district of T’oqocachi alive.
Pacchanta community is located on the slopes of Mount “Ausangate”, 4200 above sea level. Its inhabitants, who dedicate to the breeding of alpacas and the cultivation of native tubercles, are knit experts. They make their vestments with alpaca fiber and use the meat as a source of protein. Native potatoes, fresh or transformed traditionally into “chuño” and “moraya”, provide them the carbohydrates they need to fight cold and hard work.
Knitting is so much more than a commercial activity, it is the reflection of andean and amazonian communities way to understand the world. Through this activity is shown their understanding of nature, its uses, its ways of living and also their rituals. It is a knowledge that is pass on generation to generation and that doesn’t limit itself to the art of knitting but also to the learning of different techniques and plants to dye the wool that is obtained from the alpacas that live in their territories.
If you are interested in experimenting these cultural manifestations, we highly recommend you to take a stroll around Pacchanta community in Cusco, where you will enter into direct contact with the locals and meet their millenary traditions, one of which is Knitting. You’ll see how the people of this remote place in the Andes live and work, surrounded by spectacular scenery and completely involved in nature. An Experience that will enrich your comprehension of Andean Culture. Plus, you will get to help in the traditional agricultural labors of seeding, harvest or any other activity that may be spontaneously happening at the day of your arrival.
We recommend contacting a tour operator to guarantee total enjoy of this place and its people. ¡Have a nice trip!
The current Plaza de Armas corresponded to the administrative and political center of the Inca empire. Before it was a swampy area that the incas worked and transformed in the XII century, raising in time the palaces on which Huayna Cápac and Pachacútec lived between other leaders. Continue reading
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Misti is one of the most important icons of the city of Arequipa. From anywhere you are standing it is possible to observe this volcano, which has, over the centuries, extracted the Ashlar stone, with what they have built the main monuments, churches and mansions of the city. It lies in the Valley of Chili, and is currently unused. In its peak they were found some archaeological remains belonging to the inca. Continue reading