Mestizaje is a term used to describe the meeting of two or more distinct elements. When you travel through Peru and Latin America, this is evident in aspects as diverse as food, religion, and even the physical appearance of people, which is a product of the confluence of indigenous, Spanish, African, and other cultures. Mestizaje is also evident in the architecture of the imperial city of the ancient Inca civilization, which travelers can appreciate as part of a Cusco vacation package. Although the Spanish conquerors razed many Inca structures in the effort to impose a Spanish settlement upon Cusco, some parts of Inca edifices, including many of the palaces and temples that surrounded the Plaza de Armas, were preserved and incorporated into Spanish buildings.
Architectural mestizaje takes many forms. For example, just off the Plaza de Armas, Inca and Spanish architectures share the same corner of Calle Triunfo and Santa Catalina Angosta. An Inca wall is identifiable by its stones which are perfectly fitted together; stone on stone with no mortar, cement, or other binding element in between. Also, the corners are rounded, and the wall itself leans in slightly at an angle. Spanish builders later added portales, or arched, covered walkways, all around the Plaza. The corners of these stones form perfect right angles and the mortar between the stones is clearly evident. Moreover, the Inca were unfamiliar with the arch, making it a strictly Spanish construction. Around Cusco, it is not uncommon to see Inca walls form the lower part of a building, and Spanish walls forming the remainder or extending out from the original structure. The Archbishop's Palace, former the royal palace of Inca Roca, is a perfect example of architectural mestizaje.
A second type of architectural mestizaje is the use of Inca stones to construct Spanish buildings. Indeed, Inca palaces and temples served as quarries for the construction of Spanish churches, temples, and houses. It was common for Spanish builders to destroy Inca buildings and reshape the stones to suit their own purposes. The Cusco Cathedral and Santo Domingo Church, formerly the Qoricancha or Temple of the Sun, are examples of this. The architecture of both is classically Spanish, but the stones are evidently of ancient Inca origin.
One interesting facet of Inca architecture is that the walls, not only in Cusco, but throughout the region, have been able to withstand the severe earthquakes that have struck regularly in the centuries since the Conquest. Spanish constructions, on the other hand, crumbled easily during these major earthquakes. As an example, Santo Domingo Church sustained critical damage in the earthquake of 1950, which ironically exposed Inca walls that had been covered under layers of Spanish plaster and bricks. The original Inca walls are now incorporated into the exhibit structure of the church. Such are the wonders of architectural mestizaje that travelers can appreciate in the Inca imperial city on a trip to Peru.
This article was written by a travel expert at Peru For Less who specializes in helping you organize best value Cusco vacation packages for your trip to Peru.
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