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CHAPTER VIII

THE OLDEST CITY IN SOUTH AMERICA

Cuzco, the oldest city in South America, has changed completely since Squier’s visit. In fact it has altered considerably since my own first impressions of it were published in “Across South America.” To be sure, there are still the evidences of antiquity to be seen on every side; on the other hand there are corresponding evidences of advancement. Telephones, electric lights, street cars, and the “movies” have come to stay. The streets are cleaner. If the modern traveler finds fault with some of the conditions he encounters he must remember that many of the achievements of the people of ancient Cuzco are not yet duplicated in his own country nor have they ever been equaled in any other part of the world. And modern Cuzco is steadily progressing. The great square in front of the cathedral was completely metamorphosed by Prefect Nunez in 1911; concrete walks and beds of bright flowers have replaced the market and the old cobblestone paving and made the plaza a favorite promenade of the citizens on pleasant evenings.

The principal market-place now is the Plaza of San Francisco. It is crowded with booths of every description. Nearly all of the food-stuffs and utensils used by the Indians may be bought here. Frequently thronged with Indians, buying and selling, arguing and jabbering, it affords, particularly in the early morning, a never-ending source of entertainment to one who is fond of the picturesque and interested in strange manners and customs.

The retail merchants of Cuzco follow the very old custom of congregating by classes. In one street are the dealers in hats; in another those who sell coca. The dressmakers and tailors are nearly all in one long arcade in a score or more of dark little shops. Their light seems to come entirely from the front door. The occupants are operators of American sewing-machines who not only make clothing to order, but always have on hand a large assortment of standard sizes and patterns. In another arcade are the shops of those who specialize in everything which appeals to the eye and the pocketbook of the arriero: richly decorated halters, which are intended to avert the Evil Eye from his best mules; leather knapsacks in which to carry his coca or other valuable articles; cloth cinches and leather bridles; raw-hide lassos, with which he is more likely to make a diamond hitch than to rope a mule; flutes to while away the weary hours of his journey, and candles to be burned before his patron saint as he starts for some distant village; in a word, all the paraphernalia of his profession.


MAP OF PERU AND VIEW OF CUZCO
From the "Speculum Orbis Terrarum," Antwerp, 1578

In order to learn more about the picturesque Quichuas who throng the streets of Cuzco it was felt to be important to secure anthropometric measurements of a hundred Indians. Accordingly, Surgeon Nelson set up a laboratory in the Hotel Central. His subjects were the unwilling victims of friendly gendarmes who went out into the streets with orders to bring for examination only pure-blooded Quichuas. Most of the Indians showed no resentment and were in the end pleased and surprised to find themselves the recipients of a small silver coin as compensation for loss of time.

One might have supposed that a large proportion of Dr. Nelson’s subjects would have claimed Cuzco as their native place, but this was not the case. Actually fewer Indians came from the city itself than from relatively small towns like Anta, Huaracondo, and Maras. This may have been due to a number of causes. In the first place, the gendarmes may have preferred to arrest strangers from distant villages, who would submit more willingly. Secondly, the city folk were presumably more likely to be in their shops attending to their business or watching their wares in the plaza, an occupation which the gendarmes could not interrupt. On the other hand it is also probably true that the residents of Cuzco are of more mixed descent than those of remote villages, where even to-day one cannot find more than two or three individuals who speak Spanish. Furthermore, the attention of the gendarmes might have been drawn more easily to the quaintly caprisoned Indians temporarily in from the country, where city fashions do not prevail, than to those who through long residence in the city had learned to adopt a costume more in accordance with European notions. In 1870, according to Squier, seven eighths of the population of Cuzco were still pure  Indian. Even to-day a large proportion of the individuals whom one sees in the streets appears to be of pure aboriginal ancestry. Of these we found that many are visitors from outlying villages. Cuzco is the Mecca of the most densely populated part of the Andes.

Probably a large part of its citizens are of mixed Spanish and Quichua ancestry. The Spanish conquistadores did not bring European women with them. Nearly all took native wives. The Spanish race is composed of such an extraordinary mixture of peoples from Europe and northern Africa, Celts, Iberians, Romans, and Goths, as well as Carthaginians, Berbers, and Moors, that the Hispanic peoples have far less antipathy toward intermarriage with the American race than have the Anglo-Saxons and Teutons of northern Europe. Consequently, there has gone on for centuries intermarriage of Spaniards and Indians with results which are difficult to determine. Some writers have said there were once 200,000 people in Cuzco. With primitive methods of transportation it would be very difficult to feed so many. Furthermore, in 1559, there were, according to Montesinos, only 20,000 Indians in Cuzco.

One of the charms of Cuzco is the juxtaposition of old and new. Street cars clanging over steel rails carry crowds of well-dressed Cuzcenos past Inca walls to greet their friends at the railroad station. The driver is scarcely able by the most vigorous application of his brakes to prevent his mules from crashing into a compact herd of quiet, supercilious llamas sedately engaged in bringing small sacks of potatoes to the Cuzco market. The modern convent of La Merced is built of stones taken from ancient Inca structures. Fastened to ashlars which left the Inca stonemason’s hands six or seven centuries ago, one sees a bill-board advertising Cuzco’s largest moving-picture theater. On the 2d of July, 1915, the performance was for the benefit of the Belgian Red Cross! Gazing in awe at this sign were Indian boys from some remote Andean village where the custom is to wear ponchos with broad fringes, brightly colored, and knitted caps richly decorated with tasseled tops and elaborate ear-tabs, a costume whose design shows no trace of European influence. Side by side with these picturesque visitors was a barefooted Cuzco urchin clad in a striped jersey, cloth cap, coat, and pants of English pattern.

One sees electric light wires fastened to the walls of houses built four hundred years ago by the Spanish conquerors, walls which themselves rest on massive stone foundations laid by Inca masons centuries before the conquest. In one place telephone wires intercept one’s view of the beautiful stone fašade of an old Jesuit Church, now part of the University of Cuzco. It is built of reddish basalt from the quarries of Huaccoto, near the twin peaks of Mt. Picol. Professor Gregory says that this Huaccoto basalt has a softness and uniformity of texture which renders it peculiarly suitable for that elaborately carved stonework which was so greatly desired by ecclesiastical architects of the sixteenth century. As compared with the dense diorite which was extensively used by the Incas, the basalt weathers far more rapidly. The rich red color of the weathered portions gives to the Jesuit Church an atmosphere of extreme age. The courtyard of the University, whose arcades echoed to the feet of learned Jesuit teachers long before Yale was founded, has recently been paved with concrete, transformed into a tennis court, and now echoes to the shouts of students to whom Dr. Giesecke, the successful president, is teaching the truth of the ancient axiom, “Mens sana in corpore sano.


TOWERS OF JESUIT CHURCH WITH CLOISTERS AND
TENNIS COURT OF UNIVERSITY, CUZCO

Modern Cuzco is a city of about 20,000 people. Although it is the political capital of the most important department in southern Peru, it had in 1911 only one hospital — a semi-public, non-sectarian organization on the west of the city, next door to the largest cemetery. In fact, so far away is it from everything else and so close to the cemetery that the funeral wreaths and the more prominent monuments are almost the only interesting things which the patients have to look at. The building has large courtyards and open colonnades, which would afford ideal conditions for patients able to take advantage of open-air treatment. At the time of Surgeon Erving’s visit he found the patients were all kept in wards whose windows were small and practically always closed and shuttered, so that the atmosphere was close and the light insufficient. One could hardly imagine a stronger contrast than exists between such wards and those to which we are accustomed in the United States, where the maxi-mum of sunlight and fresh air is sought and patients are encouraged to sit out-of-doors, and even have their cots on porches. There was no resident physician. The utmost care was taken throughout the hospital to have everything as dark as possible, thus conforming to the ancient mountain traditions regarding the evil effects of sunlight and fresh air. Needless to say, the hospital has a high mortality and a very poor local reputation; yet it is the only hospital in the Department. Outside of Cuzco, in all the towns we visited, there was no provision for caring for the sick except in their own homes. In the larger places there are shops where sonic of the more common drugs may be obtained, but in the great majority of towns and villages no modern medicines can be purchased. No wonder President  Giesecke, of the University, is urging his students to play football and tennis.

On the slopes of the hill which overshadows the University are the interesting terraces of Colcampata. Here, in 1571, lived Carlos Inca, a cousin of Inca Titu Cusi, one of the native rulers who succeeded in maintaining a precarious existence in the wilds of the Cordillera Uilcapampa after the Spanish Conquest. In the gardens of Colcampata is still preserved one of the most exquisite bits of Inca stonework to be seen in Peru. One wonders whether it is all that is left of a fine palace, or whether it represents the last efforts of a dying dynasty to erect a suitable residence for Titu Cusi’s cousin. It is carefully preserved by Don Cesare Lomellini, the leading business man of Cuzco, a merchant prince of Italian origin, who is at once a banker, an exporter of hides and other country produce, and an importer of merchandise of every description, including pencils and sugar mills, lumber and hats, candy and hardware. He is also an amateur of Spanish colonial furniture as well as of the beautiful pottery of the Incas. Furthermore, he has always found time to turn aside from the pressing cares of his large business to assist our expeditions. He has frequently brought us in touch with the owners of country estates, or given us letters of introduction, so that our paths were made easy. He has provided us with storerooms for our equipment, assisted us in procuring trustworthy muleteers, seen to it that we were not swindled in local purchases of mules and pack saddles, given us invaluable advice in over-coming difficulties, and, in a word, placed himself wholly at our disposal, just as though we were his most desirable and best-paying clients. As a matter of fact, he never was willing to receive any compensation for the many favors he showed us. So important a factor was he in the success of our expeditions that he deserves to be gratefully remembered by all friends of exploration.

Above his country house at Colcampata is the hill of Sacsahuaman. It is possible to scramble up — its face, but only by making more exertion than is desirable at this altitude, 11,900 feet. The easiest way to reach the famous “fortress” is by following the course of the little Tullumayu, “Feeble Stream,” the easternmost of the three canalized streams which divide Cuzco into four parts. On its banks one first passes a tannery and then, a short distance up a steep gorge, the remains of an old mill. The stone flume and the adjoining ruins are commonly ascribed by the people of Cuzco to-day to the Incas, but do not look to me like Inca stonework. Since the Incas did not understand the mechanical principle of the wheel, it is hardly likely that they would have known how to make any use of water power. Finally, careful examination of the flume discloses the presence of lead cement, a substance unknown in Inca masonry.

A little farther up the stream one passes through a massive megalithic gateway and finds one’s self in the presence of the astounding gray-blue Cyclopean walls of Sacsahuaman  described in “Across South America.” Here the ancient builders constructed three great terraces, which extend one above another for a third of a mile across the hill between two deep gulches. The lowest terrace of the “fortress” is faced with colossal boulders, many of which weigh ten tons and some weigh more than twenty tons, yet all are fitted together with the utmost precision. I have visited Sacsahuaman repeatedly. Each time it invariably overwhelms and astounds. To a superstitious Indian who sees these walls for the first time, they must seem to have been built by gods.

About a mile northeast of Sacsahuaman are several small artificial hills, partly covered with vegetation, which seem to be composed entirely of gray-blue rock chips — chips from the great limestone blocks quarried here for the “fortress” and later conveyed with the utmost pains down to Sacsahuaman. They represent the labor of countless thou-sands of quarrymen. Even in modern times, with steam drills, explosives, steel tools, and light railways, these hills would be noteworthy, but when one pauses to consider that none of these mechanical devices were known to the ancient stone-masons and that these mountains of stone chips were made with stone tools and were all carried from the quarries by hand, it fairly staggers the imagination.

The ruins of Sacsahuaman represent not only an incredible amount of human labor, but also a very remarkable governmental organization. That thousands of people could have been spared from agricultural pursuits for so long a time as was necessary to extract the blocks from the quarries, hew them to the required shapes, transport them several miles over rough country, and bond them together in such an intricate manner, means that the leaders had the brains and ability to organize and arrange the affairs of a very large population. Such a folk could hardly have spent much time in drilling or preparing for warfare. Their building operations required infinite pains, endless time, and devoted skill. Such qualities could hardly have been called forth, even by powerful monarchs, had not the results been pleasing to the great majority of their people, people who were primarily agriculturists. They had learned to avert hunger and famine by relying on carefully built, stone-faced terraces, which would prevent their fields being carried off and spread over the plains of the Amazon. It seems to me possible that Sacsahuaman was built in accordance with their desires to please their gods. Is it not reasonable to suppose that a people to whom stone-faced terraces meant so much in the way of life-giving food should have sometimes built massive terraces of Cyclopean character, like Sacsahuaman, as an offering to the deity who first taught them terrace construction? This seems to me a more likely object for the gigantic labor involved in the construction of Sacsahuaman than its possible usefulness as a fortress. Equally strong defense, against an enemy attempting to attack the hilltop back of Cuzco might have been constructed of smaller stones in an infinitely shorter time, with far less labor and pains.

Such a display of the power to control the labor of thousands of individuals and force them  to super-human efforts on an unproductive undertaking, which in its agricultural or strategic results was out of all proportion to the obvious cost, might have been caused by the supreme vanity of a great soldier. On the other hand, the ancient Peruvians were religious rather than warlike, more inclined to worship the sun than to fight great battles. Was Sacsahuaman due to the desire to please at whatever cost, the god that fructified the crops which grew on terraces? It is not surprising that the Spanish conquerors, warriors themselves and descendants of twenty generations of a fighting race, accustomed as they were to the salients of European fortresses, should have looked upon Sacsahuaman as a fortress. To them the military use of its bastions was perfectly obvious. The value of its salients and reentrant angles was not likely to be  overlooked, for it had been only recently acquired by their crusading ancestors. The height and strength of its powerful walls enabled it to be of the greatest service to the soldiers of that day. They saw that it was virtually impregnable for any artillery with which they were familiar. In fact, in the wars of the Incas and those which followed Pizarro’s entry into Cuzco, Sacsahuaman was repeatedly used as a fortress.

So it probably never occurred to the Spaniards that the Peruvians, who knew nothing of explosive powder or the use of artillery, did not construct Sacsahuaman in order to withstand such a siege as the fortresses of Europe were only too familiar with. So natural did it seem to the first Europeans who saw it to regard it as a fortress that it has seldom been thought of in any other way. The fact that the sacred city of Cuzco was more likely to be attacked by invaders coming up the valley, or even over the gentle slopes from the west, or through the pass from the north which for centuries has been used as part of the main highway of the central Andes, never seems to have troubled writers who regarded Sacsahuaman essentially as a fortress. It may be that Sacsahuaman was once used as a place where the votaries of the sun gathered at the end of the rainy season to celebrate the vernal equinox, and at the summer solstice to pray for the sun’s return from his “farthest north.” In any case I believe that the enormous cost of its construction shows that it was probably intended for religious rather than military purposes. It is more likely to have been an ancient shrine than a mighty fortress.

It now becomes necessary, in order to explain my explorations north of Cuzco, to ask the reader’s attention to a brief account of the last four Incas who ruled over any part of Peru.

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