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Peru Summer Program Takes SU students to Cusco

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    Llama at Machu Picchu. (Photo credit: Kynan Murtagh)
    Kynan Murtagh
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    Kevin Lentz
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    Austin Smartt
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    Aaron Jimenez
  • News Image
    Aaron Jimenez

Southwestern students and faculty travel to Peru for a course on Inca and colonial architecture and painting.

This summer thirteen students and two SU faculty spent three weeks in Cusco, Peru, in a course about Inca stonework and colonial Spanish architecture and painting. The course, “Visual Cultures in the Andes” was the first of its kind to be offered through SU, and was an inter-disciplinary experience not offered elsewhere, bringing together the expertise of Latin American philosopher Omar Rivera and Latin American art historian Patrick Hajovsky. The two led daily discussions in a classroom at the Centro Bartolome de las Casas, followed by lunch and daily excursions to visit Inca carved stones and structures and Spanish colonial churches and convents.

The group read several scholarly works, including A Culture of Stone by art historian Carolyn Dean, which is dedicated to concepts of Inca stonework. They also read a large portion of Religion in the Andes, by historian Sabine MacCormack. Along the way, the group read other philosophical, art historical, historical, anthropological and theological texts, as they compared the very different ways that the Inca and Spanish cultures regarded images, and examined their historical confluences through 300 years of colonialism and into today. Faculty and students took a critical eye to the texts as they examined disciplinary approaches and compared them experiences there.

Aside from the study of Inca and Spanish visual cultures, students enjoyed the culture of the city, especially its music and food. Cusco, a city of about 500,000 people, has one of the most diverse mix of cultures to be found. Tourism is a major business that has been picking up in recent years. “It was sometimes hard to study in one of the coffee shops in the city center, since nearly every day the main plaza was filled with indigenous costume dancing in celebration of Corpus Christi and Inti Raimi,” says Dr. Hajovsky. “Still, we made that part of the course—students had to go out and reflect on their roles as tourists as they participated in the festivals.” Students not only learned much more than the average tourist about the rich history of this city, but they also had the chance to engage with personally.

Dr. Rivera concurs, “Something became clear to me as a philosopher who works primarily with texts. One thing is to read texts in a classroom at school. Another is to read the same texts when you are experiencing the place and the people that inspired their authors in the first place. It is a different kind of learning that needs to be at the center of the liberal arts.”