Ultimately, the soulless won.

Music echoes from Plaza de Armas, the martial tones of a brass band blended with the cacophony of a cumbia dance. Irreverent, the noise penetrates into the cathedral, bouncing along the whitewashed arcs of the vault. Whitewashed, as was the culture that originally inhabited this place.
Every single centre of Spanish power has been built above, or with, pre-existing Inca monuments. As I walk through the aisles of the Cathedral I am forced to admire the conquistadores – for they could’ve taught a thing or two to the American neocons five centuries later – but their chauvinism disgusts me. Inca Roca’s palace became the Archbishop’s digs. Wayna Capac’s palace became the Jesuit’s church. Qurichanka, the Inca’s temple of the sun, sprouted an incongruous hat under the form of the Santo Domingo convent. The Cathedral’s gain has been Saksaywaman’s loss. Their builders now rested in the Cathedral, after writing “the native Americans had no soul, so couldn’t be considered human beings”. In the sacristy I found the oil painting of the author: the first Bishop of Cusco.
A lady hands us a commemorative cockade for the event. A rainbow-coloured ribbon, held close by a simple nail. “Es la bandera inca senor” she says. Above us, next to the Peruvian flag, flies a larger specimen of the small piece of cloth I am holding in my palm. The Inca standard.
The feast is hard to decipher. Half procession, half parade, it’s enriched with the allegoric charge of a carnival and peppered with faith. Groups of men, dressed in costumes – or masques – march in front of a stand where a crowd of locals stands, huddled around the Mayor. He wears a rainbow band across his chest, not one with the red-and-white Peruvian flag.
Masked men strut in orderly lines, pacing gravely, indifferent to the sound of the music or the excited chatter of the MC. Their clothes, their balaclavas, the rowdy succession of colours – white, red, ochre, yellow, pink – the dead baby llamas hung on their shoulders, all must have meanings for the locals. Are they masques idealising particular individuals in the Andean society? Are they the traditional costumes of their villages? They know, we don’t. And perhaps we’re not meant to know.
Everything – the défilé, the statue of Inca Pachacuti standing tall in the square – indicates that, ultimately, the Spaniards failed and that their culture has been rejected by the cusqueños, but it’d be wrong to say so. Christianity is alive, just different from how Vicente de Valverde imagined to be.
Jesus and the Apostles eating cuy at the Last Supper, Mary wearing alpaca wool clothes, Inca motives adorning the crucifix. A culture might’ve arrived and, thanks to horses, war dogs, steel, gunpowder and smallpox subjugated another. But it couldn’t, ultimately, avoid being influenced, and changed, but what was here before.
This entry was posted in Americas, Peru and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Ultimately, the soulless won.

  1. Beautiful. Brings back so many poignant memories of my time in Peru – learning about the Inca heritage and the impact of Spanish colonisation and religion. Beautiful images of a very strong national identity and the colourful, inspiring people and places inherent within it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. petakaplan says:

    Wonderful pictures. Brings back terrific memories from our month in Peru about ten years ago…
    What a fiesta!
    P

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Inger says:

    I only know small parts of the story of the conquistadores coming to south america, and as many other places it is an unfortunate one. I am glad not all of the culture has gone lost. That is quite an interesting parade you witnessed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      Thanks Inger. It was an interesting parade indeed, and the following day, Sunday, it was a bit more official – with soldiers, teachers, policemen… We could’t quite understand what the event was, but it was nice nonetheless.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Inger says:

        We didn’t witness any parades during our backpacking adventure in Central- and South America, but we did see some rituals that were quite interesting. I didn’t fully grasp the meaning of them either.

        Liked by 1 person

      • awtytravels says:

        Well, sometimes it’s nice not to know something, at least for me. I’m too used to Google anything, and have the answer to everything… It’s cool for something to remain unexplained for once.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. lexklein says:

    For many reasons, my memories of Cusco are largely devoid of historical and religious connections, but your post brings back the Inca-Spanish push-pull in Peru that I first encountered at Quricancha, and later at the Cathedral; the old “Pizarro conquered the Incas in Peru” school lessons came to life (and a very different level of clarity) there. I love that the soulless endure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      True, it’s not so much ‘in your face’, and you could be completely oblivious to it; however, having read not long ago about how Christianity sort of “rebranded” pagan festivals and superimposed them with Christmas and Easter, I was fertile ground for it… Plus, we tagged along a group of schoolchildren in the Cusco museum, and we were hearing the guides asking them the names of the Sapa Incas, and they knew all of them! A bit like the 7 kings of Rome when I was a kid.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. equinoxio21 says:

    Thank you for the Peruvian tour. Peru is defintely high on my travel-to list. Gracias!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jane says:

    Hi Fabrizio,
    I’ve said it many times already, but you do write so beautifully. I admire your descriptive ability and reflective thinking.
    I have very mixed ancestry and was shocked to find out in recent years that a very distant grandfather was actually a famous Conquistador and there is a statue somewhere of him riding a horse. I’m appalled at his actions. It feels very strange to be descended from such a person. At the same time some of his descendants were also tortured during the Spanish Inquisition because they were secretly Jews, so I am descended from persecutors and the persecuted, as I suppose many people are if we look far enough back in history.
    Thank you for sharing this historical and pictorial look at Peru. I was always fascinated by the Incas when I was a schoolchild. Little did I know my own family connection to South America! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      Hi Jane, you’re too kind!
      I’m surprised that you were able to get so far behind in your family history, it must’ve been a fascinating story… And how poignant that you’ve had, in the same family, both the persecutor and the persecuted, separated by only a handful of years if memory of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain doesn’t deceive me. Who knows, perhaps these two sides even met each other!
      Talking about heritage, I’ve seen a video about people doing a DNA test, which I can’t seem to find on Youtube anymore. That’s something I’d like to undertake, for at the moment all I know about my family is that it’s pretty local, from Lombardy and Piedmont (plus a little bit of France…).

      Liked by 1 person

  7. LaVagabonde says:

    “Perhaps we’re not meant to know”. This is something I’ve learned after many long years of travel, and why I prefer to be a spectator, rather than a participant, in foreign cultural events.

    I had to laugh at the Last Supper cuy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      Indeed, it’s not bad sitting on the sidelines, popcorn (metaphorical popcorn) in hand. The cuy painting is quite strange; the animal itself looks a bit like a foetus, but it’s interesting nonetheless!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.