It is way too early I am sure to be making sweeping generalizations about the Peruvian psyche. And yet, the two great Spanish colonial cultures I have been exposed to for any length of time (Mexico and here) seem to have been marked in very different ways from each other. Through my 5 months in Mexico and exposure to books (such as El laberinto de la soledad) as well as interactions with the people, I got a sense of just how still present and marked Mexican culture is by the Spanish Conquest. It is not some remote past atrocity, but a living, breathing, ongoing thread in the culture. It seems to pit different parts of the Mexican psyche against itself, as well as between groups in current society. Although I have only been in Peru a few weeks, my sense of their relationship to their past colonial history is very different. I get the idea from the sites I have visited and the discussions with people that live here that Spanish rule was almost just the next in a line of succession after the Incas. Peruvians seem to be much more comfortable than Mexicans with the various parts of their past, and accepting of the idea that they are as much a product of colonialism as they are previous cultures. They seem to find a way (through their museums, archaeology sites, culture of food, etc) to present without sentimentalism their past stretching back thousands of years, and to integrate it in their current identity. These are of course my superficial first impressions, and perhaps they will change, but it is striking.
Koricancha is one of the most fascinating sites in Cusco. It is the location of the most important temple in the Inca empire and was for many years buried under the Church of Santo Domingo (built by the Spanish ‘natch) until an earthquake in 1950 uncovered a bunch of it and leveled a lot of the church. “Buried” perhaps isn’t the best word to describe how the church was built over it, as several of the rooms were subsumed by the church complex, the original stone structures still in place and the forms of the rooms as well. This was the first site that really impressed on me the wonder of Inca architecture. The incredible fitting and complexity of the stonework is beyond anything I have seen of its kind anywhere. It was all done without mortar and in this seismically active region holds up incredibly well, especially when compared with colonial building.The fittings are so tight that many of the seams are almost invisible.
Another great reason to visit the Church / Convent of Santo Domingo is for the excellent collection of paintings (many from the Cusco school) that detail the history of the church in this part of the world. The explanations under the paintings are the best I have ever encountered and explain in great detail the meanings and influences of the paintings.
Julio, Mauricio (Julio’s bf) and I spent the day exploring a small corner of Mexico City’s centro historico, one of the oldest parts of the city. It is filled with older buildings dating as far back as the 1500’s. This part of DF had been the city of the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan, but Cortés and his buddies just bulldozed over and built their New Spain capital right on top of it. The effects of this building spree, and the fact that Mexico City is all built on top of a filled-in lake, makes for less than stable foundations. A ton of the buildings in the historic center are literally sinking, with many of them tilting this way or that. This seems to give the area a kind of tragic, romantic flair, and many of the buildings are incredibly beautiful to behold.