Controversy is beginning to separate the people of Cuzco. They are arrayed for and against the statue of the Inca that appeared last year in the Main Square and, as a consequence, over politics of Cuzco’s cultural patrimony and relationship to Perú’s dominant creole culture.
Cuzco’s mayor, Luís Arturo Flores García unveiled the statue in June 2011 above Cuzco’s colonial style fountain immediately provoking a polemic with the national Ministry of Culture which has the charge of caring for national monuments of which Cusco is one; it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
But there is where the polemic begins. Mayor Florez argues that the original fountain came with a statue, although a misguided statue of a North American Indian and that it is far better to have a statue of an Inca as one of the rulers of Cuzco and part of its claim to uniqueness.
In contrast, the Ministry of Culture and others argue that the statue violates the fine colonial aesthetics of the Plaza as an example of Spanish construction on an Inca base. No matter if the original fountain had a statue, it to would have been in violation of those canons which are part of the intangible cultural heritage of Cuzco.
Yesterday a table was set up in the Plaza de Armas by a group of Cuzqueños to defend the statue. They were collecting signatures of passersby on a petition to demand the statue of the Inca be allowed to stay as well as raising awareness, especially among the people of the city.
They hold that the Inca is the image that represents the people of Cuzco. They argue that it is a symbol of the culture of the city and region’s culture. Those who wish to take it away, they claim, wish to deny the Inca in favor of the Spanish colonial.
The conflict is painted as one between the defenders of the Spanish and those who would defend Cuzco as Inca. The latter is the legitimate culture of the city while the former is that of the invaders, as if the conquest were to be re-fought in the issue of the statue.
In contrast one finds those who would celebrate the Mestizo, mixed heritage of the city and see that as the basis for intangible cultural value.
The issue is before Peru’s courts while at the same time those gathering petitions present a different argument to authority. They demand the statue remain because it is the will of the majority of the people of Cuzco that it stay. They see a majority of residents as having more validity than a national system of lawyers and laws on intangible culture. They claim they will stand up to defend the statue and the right of Cuzco’s people to determine their culture.
While the Inca continue to stand and point to the sacred hills, a very different grounding of authority, a different front in this battle has opened. The mayor has proposed public works on Plateros Street, which opens on the Plaza de Armas, and a national panel of jurists has been convoked to challenge the works and their design.