After over a hundred years of one of the most impressive empires ever built, the Spanish invaded the Incan city of Cusco. They brutally collapsed the empire, killing thousands and destroying architecture not even reconstructable today. The conflict may have lead to the loss of much of the society but it did not fully suppress the culture.
After visiting several Inca ruin sites, a theme of survival began to emerge. Mainly through religion, the empire was able to infuse their culture into the forced practices of their conquerors.
Many examples of this were seen in the cathedral. The Spanish built the impressive church on this spot after tearing down the temple of what they thought was the Inca’s main god. Through this conflict the Incas were able to find a resolution in which they infused their beliefs. In many paintings and statues the mother Mary was shaped very triangular, representing the mountains that were an important part of their religion. The crowns on the religious figures also were used to represent the sun while the feet represented the moon.
Like many societies throughout history that have had Christianity forced upon them, the religious figures within the art were made to look like the people of that culture. In this case the representations of Jesus were made to have the features of a Peruvian, making him more relatable and believable.
Throughout the cathedral it became apparent that in every place possible the Incas included important symbols such as the sun, stars and mountains to the art. In these creative places it is clear that the culture lived on. The resolution may not have been ideal for this once powerful empire but through this they were able to live on.
This intersection of conflict and resolution resonated with me throughout the trip. I had never realized how common it would be for the Incas and Peru in general throughout history. Through a more modern example, the terrorism and political unrest within the last thirty years, the country is able to find a resolution in which they can rise up from and not let the conflict destroy them. While many times the resolutions are not ideal, they have preserved a fascinating history of this culture and society.