Page 118 - Montecito Journal Glossy Edition Winter/Spring 2013/14

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ore than two million tourists travel to Peru every year,
and almost all of them pass through the elegant city of
Cusco on their way to the legendary site of Machu Picchu.
Virtually everyone arrives in Cusco by airplane, as the hour-
long flight from Peru’s seaside capital of Lima easily trumps the 27-hour drive on
tortuous roads through the Andes Mountains. Approximately 360,000 people
comprise Cusco’s permanent population, living at an altitude of 11,200 feet.
At the height of its pre-Hispanic
power, Cusco was the sophisticated
center of the Inca Empire, which
stretched nearly 3,000 miles along
the western half of the South
American continent. When the Spanish conquistadors under the command of
Francisco Pizarro arrived in Peru in 1533, they found a city of opulent wealth
with nearly indescribable riches. Pizarro himself wrote to his king, Charles I
(1516-1556), “We can assure your majesty that it is so beautiful and has such
fine buildings that it would even be remarkable in Spain.”
Realizing the extraordinary quality of Inca stonework, the Spanish didn’t
quite demolish everything, and in many instances built their palaces, convents,
churches and monasteries on the foundation walls of native palaces and
temples. The visitor who spends enough time exploring Cusco’s layers of art and
architecture will find one of the greatest cultural mash-ups in human history:
that of the Spanish and the Inca, who themselves had built
upon the structures of the earlier Killke people. The
historic and picturesque city was declared a
UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Culture Clash in Cusco:
The Collision of Inca and Spanish Societies in Peru
spr ing