Today we took a tour of the ancient city of Cusco. As pretty much all of you know, Peru is a Catholic country and Peruvians speak Spanish. It was not always like this, though. Long ago, during the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries, there lived an indigenous tribe that you all know of as the Incas. This is false. The Inca is the native word for “king”. The people we know of as the Incas are actually the “Kichwas”. The Inca was the king of the Kichwas. There were only fourteen Incas in the Kichwa history. Today, we learned about the shattered Kichwa culture, the lost Inca decorations, and the replacement of the Kichwa temples.
In 1532, a Spanish conquistador named Francisco Pizarro and one hundred and twenty men came upon a Kichwa city which is now Quito. At the time, the Kichwa nation was split into two regions, each controlled by a different Inca, one in Quito and one in Cusco. The two regions were currently in the middle of a civil war and the Kichwa’s population of twelve million people was weakened. The Kichwas of the northern region thought the Spanish were gods and were not prepared for the killing of their Inca and the massacre and conquest of their people. Soon, over the course of a year, the Spanish took Cusco and, along with it, the entire Kichwa empire.
Before the Spanish invasion, Cusco was a city of gold. It all began with the two Temples of the Sun, the most sacred for the Kichwa religion. On every wall of these structures was painted flakes of gold. This was not because gold was valuable, as it wasn’t to the Kichwa. The golden walls were created for the sole propose of the magical glittery color created when the sun’s rays touch the golden decorations. Sadly, when the Spanish invaded, they stripped the gold off the temples and destroyed them. Thereafter, the Spanish enslaved the Kichwas to build Catholic churches where the temples once stood. But, the Kichwas’ left their mark....
While the Kichwas were building the churches, they left some subtle clues to make sure their way of life was not forgotten. While we walked through the giant cathedral at the Plaza de Armas square, where once a mighty Temple of the Sun had stood, our guide pointed out these very signs in the Christian decorations. For instance, on the table in the painting of the Last Supper, the food was all Kichwa. The statues of the Virgin Mary were dressed in robes that extended out to the side, looking like a mountain, and therefore symbolizing the Kichwa’s god of the mountain, Pachamama. Pachamama was worshiped by the Kichwa at the top of all the mountains surrounding Cusco. Now, of course, on almost every mountain, the temples have been replaced by towering crosses. I was, again, sad to see a culture and a religion destroyed and was a little down when I walked out of the Church and into the cold wind.
Today was interesting and a little sad. It is hard for me to hear about a country coming from all the way across the ocean and killing millions of people just to take gold and get a larger empire. Sometimes, I wish that all countries could just leave each other alone.
Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!