NORTH OF CUSCO, AT 28 KILOMETERS, IN THE HISTORY; CHINCHERO

April 17, 2018
Chinchero

Chinchero

The last of towns of the Sacred Valley that we name in this guide, as we said at the beginning, ¡t can be visited during one day to visit the market and the archeological ruins. The town is located at 28 km north of Cusco and at 3,160 meters of altitude.

If there ¡s a place of synthesis between nature, archeology, history and living culture, ¡s this town full of magic that shows the remains of a valuable Inca architecture and in the proximity a splendid mestizo town with outlines of a castillian village submitted to the esthetics and Andean materials. A beautiful temple full of wall paintings continues showing metissage, hybridizing, and syncretism, or whatever, but ¡t is the people that compo this vital strength of Chinchero. The men and women of the communities that knit, an art without equal, in many cases illiterate people, but that can express through the warp woof and the design, through its own language of ancestral experiences that reedits the relation with the elements of nature still valid. Chinchero sometime acquired a symbolic character before the world, when Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda stayed here with a court of film technicians, actors, extras and another court of Peruvian followers that were in the hippie movements. It was the filming of one of the more successful failures in the history of the American cinema, “The Last Movie” and over dimensioning of everything possible that contributed to Cusco and Chinchero to be set as the mecca of the world hippie movement, together with Kathmandu.

We will start by visiting the residential palace where the great conqueror, the Tupac Yupanqui Inca spent his last days. To get to this place, you have to walk toward the square located in the high part of the town. From the palace is left a wall of polished stone with 12 trapezoidal niches that finishes in the base of the church Our Lady of Monserrat of Chinchero, whose wall paintings and details remind us of those of the South Valley. From here, there is an impressive view of the valley and of the farming lands. Breath deeply, that we are going to lack air to walk by the ruins that are extended at the sides of the hills.

After the church, on top and at is sides, there is a narrow pass that goes deep into the hills, it is the Archaeological Complex of Chinchero. Calling our attention are the andenes that descend to a hillside of 200 meters towards below, which allows understanding that this was an agricultural production center – kiwicha, quinua and potato -in the Inca time. For this, a warehouse was also built and to the complex a very efficient watering system was provided. The history says that upon the arrival of the Spanish, in 1536 Chinchero was burned by Manco Inca in his escape towards Vilcabamba with the objective of not leaving anything for the conquistadores in their way. It is for this reason, that some of the stone walls look today with remains of charcoal produced by the fire. This data is related with another of special relevance to understand the importance that knitting had for the Incas, in symbolic and recording terms. At hearing that the foreigners were arriving, wrote the chroniclers, the Incas hid or destroyed in the first place their knits, before putting the abundant gold well hidden.

As it was usual to happen with many Inca temples; over the Túpac Yupanqui Palace; in 1607, the Spanish built the church of Our Lady of Monserrat, with the objective to represent it, submittal in a symbolic form. It is said that in the construction participated the communities of Ayllu Pongo, Cuper or Yanacona, whose inhabitants until today come down to hear IIMSS in quechua and participate in the fair on Sundays.

With its bell tower exempt (that is, apart from the temple building) and its rustic appearance, the church does not make us suspect that inside hides a real treasure. Its high altar carved in gold leaf and of baroque style is dedicated to the Virgin of the Nativity, patron saint of the town (the festivity is celebrated on September, 8th). Close to her you can see the archangels Gabriel and Miguel, and the Virgin of the Asunción and Saint Peter. It also calls our attention the decorated walls with Pictures by Diego Quispe Tito, the maximum representative of the Cusco School, works that have as its objective (he evangelizing action. This noble indigenous painter lived in the town of San Sebastian ¡n the XVII century. The roof of this church is considered his best work. The paintings on its part, have the signature of Francisco Chihuantito and date back to 1693 (the image of the virgin is considered his masterpiece).

In the lateral wall of the church there is a wall painting that represents a puma submit-ling a snake or “amaru”. And, it is because after the victory over the rebel Tupac Amaru II, the cacique of Chinchero, Mateo García Pumacahua ordered to paint this wall as to represent its superiority and suppress the rebel spirits of the Indians. The Pumacahua house -who many years after these happenings was beheaded in the Sicuani square for raising against the Spanish – is located at the side of the church in the Chinchero square, on top of an Inca base.

Sundays are special days in Cusco because it is when the inhabitants of the different communities descend from their heights to the plazas/squares of the towns to participate in the markets and carry out the millenary practice of the products exchange that even now can be shown as a form of barter, this practice is disappearing. The difference with what has happened with the Pisac market, today far more commercial that what once was, the Chinchero market still preserves its traditional character, the community members basically trade among them, even though, obviously, there is a generous offer for the tourists.

The Sunday Fair of Chinchero is carried out at the esplanade that is at the hillside of the small hill on whose top are the church and the Inca ruins. Here, you can find an amount of objects of domestic use, some of them really old, even the famous textiles of Chinchero. In this town, with united and organized communities, it has been possible to I reserve a live patrimony, immaterial, of extraordinary value that expresses in textiles as well as the agricultural practices in a network of family and community relations.

Here in Chinchero we met two artisan associations that are dedicated to this labor. One of them is Awai Riccharichig, that in quechua means, Center of Knitters of Chinchero. The founder and director is Nilda Callañaupa, a Chinchero woman that has been made famous by promoting the textiles of Chinchero in the world. This center, founded in 1996, groups tens of women dedicated to the textile work and it has been converted in the sole form that the Chinchero woman can maintain alive a knowledge learned from their grandmothers and mothers. When you see them work, it looks like they do it from memory and in a certain sense that is how they do it. Los “palláis” that are placed in line are in their mind, as a photographic picture or more exactly as a language. Some of these women, in the border of the pieces they knit, make a special sign that they call the nail and it is the signature of the author. All the knitting process from the washing of the wool until the final product is part of the daily expositions carried out in this and other textile workshops of Chinchero (and of Cusco, of course). Here, the traveler can learn by himself the spinning techniques, dying and knitting. For example, to dye red, the “cochinilla” is used, a parasite that grows in the tuna cactus that once it is dry loses this bright red that is afterwards mated with lemon juice or with volcanic stone. All other tones come from the plants, roots, minerals that are generally obtained in the low zones and that are exchanged with cammelids and sheep fibers that come from the heights. With the “chuica” you obtain the green, with nuts, the brown and with the “chapi” the apricot color. The blue comes from a mixture of uriñe with a plant called “indigofera”.