On Wednesday, we went to ruins in the center of Huaca Pucllana as part of our introduction into the cultures of Peru. The day included an Anthropological museum and a lecture on the Andean cosmovision, but I’d like to instead focus on the Huaca Pucllana and several ironies or contradictions that appeared to stick out to me.
- The ever-present city in the background: If you’re standing on Huaca Pucllana and you take a photo, you will have the ultimate cover photo for a textbook on 21st century global politics. This isn’t a unique observation, but one that helps contextualize where the ruins are. Urbanization also led to the destruction of a few of the ruins, as well. They are located in Miraflores, the wealthy district that reminds me of Times Square and is affectionately referred to as “Gringolandia.” There’s no value judgment to make about this, I just mean to point it out.
- Crops for show, not use: In the ruins, they had a gardens for show and not use. There were all kinds of plants and animals that they were raising to give a picture of how the land was once used, however, my tour guide did not know what happened to the food. In fact, it seemed like the first time she’d ever been asked the question. To me, that is a very important question as food is meant for more than show. I did not get a chance to investigate further though, so hopefully the food does get used in some capacity.
- First a watchtower, then a playground: When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they chose to use the temple as a watchtower, as it is essentially a human-made mountain. As a result, a place of worship and cultural pride, was converted into a tool for the conquering empire. And years later, during the 20th century, many chose to bicycle and motorbike on the site, which our tour guide characterized as disrespectful. She did so with good reason, as this is a site of cultural significance. Still, it makes sense that the status as a watchtower would take away much of this significance. Without that significance, it’s just a giant, brick hill with plenty of ramps to enjoy.
Overall though, I enjoyed the space and appreciated an opportunity to see something behind the traditional Incan empire picture of historic Andean culture. As I attempt to better understand and participate in the communities here, it is just imperative not to oversimplify or essentialize the culture to one group. Peru today is a product of its complex history.