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Authenticity and Peruvian Cultural Heritage

Authenticity and Peruvian Cultural Heritage

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09/23/2010

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P
ROCEEDINGS OF THE
I
NTERAMERICAN
S
YMPOSIUM ON
A
UTHENTICITY
 
IN THE
C
ONSERVATION AND
M
ANAGEMENT OF
C
ULTURAL
H
ERITAGE
 
S
AN
A
NTONIO
,
 
T
EXAS
,
 
USA
 
M
ARCH
,
 
1996U
NITED
S
TATES
N
ATIONAL
C
OMMITTEE OF THE
I
NTERNATIONAL
C
OUNCIL ON
M
ONUMENTS AND
S
ITES
 C
OMITÉ
N
ATIONAL DES
E
TATS
U
NIS DU
C
ONSEIL
I
NTERNATIONAL DES
M
ONUMENTS ET DES
S
ITES
 
ICOMOS PERU
 AUTHENTICITY AND PERUVIAN CULTURAL HERITAGE
For thousands of years in the Peruvian cultural tradition, it has been found in the pre-Hispaniccivilizations, especially in the coastal area, the deep rooted custom or ritual of rebuilding inconsecutive layers many of its constructions, like temples: "huacas" or pyramids; somethingthat can also be appreciated in the Mexican pyramids.
 
This phenomenon is found in cultures as old as Chavín (1,000-200 BC), through the nowadaysfamous Moche (Sipán tombs) and Chimú (1,200-1,400 AD). The Inca Empire, lasting a short time(1,400-1,532), but covering a large geographical extension, seems to have been the exceptionto this custom of rebuilding or covering the old structures.
 
The material used in many of these buildings: earth (adobe), wood and cane/bamboo (quincha),demands a periodical renovation, forced probably, many times, by the severe earthquakes thatoccur periodically in our country. Many of the pre-Hispanic architectural technologies resistedthe earthquakes without problems, but not the surfaces, profusely decorated withpolychromed mud high reliefs, which were suitable for periodical renovations.
 
Therefore, it can be deduced that, in what respects to authenticity, even in sacred buildings asthe pre-Columbian temples, it was not the same concept as that which we nowadays have.
 
 
P
ROCEEDINGS OF THE
I
NTERAMERICAN
S
YMPOSIUM ON
A
UTHENTICITY
 
IN THE
C
ONSERVATION AND
M
ANAGEMENT OF
C
ULTURAL
H
ERITAGE
 
S
AN
A
NTONIO
,
 
T
EXAS
,
 
USA
 
M
ARCH
,
 
1996U
NITED
S
TATES
N
ATIONAL
C
OMMITTEE OF THE
I
NTERNATIONAL
C
OUNCIL ON
M
ONUMENTS AND
S
ITES
 C
OMITÉ
N
ATIONAL DES
E
TATS
U
NIS DU
C
ONSEIL
I
NTERNATIONAL DES
M
ONUMENTS ET DES
S
ITES
 
At the beginning, Spaniards gave preference to their stone construction system, even in thecoast, where stone could not be found easily. They also brought the Andalusian and thereforeArab tradition of brick, wood and plaster. The earthquakes soon convinced them of theadvantages of these easily renewable lightweight materials. Very soon the prehispanic traditionof using wood and cane: quincha, mentioned above, was used again.
 
It can be seen that earthquakes have been the determining factor in the renewal of thebuildings and, as a result, in changes of their "authenticity", if this is regarded as the originalform and the "substance" or the materials and technology with which these buildings werebuilt.
 
In Peruvian architecture, most of the time, the form has been preserved but the substance, thebuilding materials, have been altered. The Cathedral of Lima, for example, is covered withGothic style ribbed vaults, which should have been made of brick or stone, but they wererebuilt with wood and cane.
 
The desertical Peruvian coast, with almost no rainfall, permitted many times that in somearchitectural expressions, other materials imitated the originals: hollow cornices, as well asthick hollow walls, or classical columns which were withstood in an interior shore and have onlya shell carved in wood. This is the scenographic character of the architecture of Lima and thecoastal area, which disgusted so much the well-knoivn Peruvian writer, Sebastian Salazar Bondy(Lima La Horrible). He did not understand that this is precisely one of the essences of itsauthenticity.
 
The evolution of styles and fashions caused periodical renewals in the language or decorationof the buildings, especially in the form, but many times not in the "substance". That means, thatit can be found the shell of a colonial house with its original structure and materials, butdecorated in neoclassical style and with an eclectic facade. Each of these changes is authentic initself and does not minimize its value as a whole; on the contrary, it enriches it.
 
 
P
ROCEEDINGS OF THE
I
NTERAMERICAN
S
YMPOSIUM ON
A
UTHENTICITY
 
IN THE
C
ONSERVATION AND
M
ANAGEMENT OF
C
ULTURAL
H
ERITAGE
 
S
AN
A
NTONIO
,
 
T
EXAS
,
 
USA
 
M
ARCH
,
 
1996U
NITED
S
TATES
N
ATIONAL
C
OMMITTEE OF THE
I
NTERNATIONAL
C
OUNCIL ON
M
ONUMENTS AND
S
ITES
 C
OMITÉ
N
ATIONAL DES
E
TATS
U
NIS DU
C
ONSEIL
I
NTERNATIONAL DES
M
ONUMENTS ET DES
S
ITES
 
Of course, we can not accept the excesses of the neocolonial style, which was a reaction againstthe European eclectical models, and was inspired by the viceroyal, and sometimes pre-hispanic,architectural language, as a way of recovering an identity or supposed cultural authenticity.
 
The writer García Calderón said in 1908: "In the aesthetic history of a nation, imitation is thefirst step in the hard and patient learning process that permits originality in the future" (in P.Belaunde: Peru, the Search for National Roots, 1994).
 
In the first decades of this century, it was thought that the neocolonial buildings replaced withadvantage, in forms and in materials (brick and concrete), the adobe and quincha originalbuildings, loosing completely the concept of authenticity. For example, in 1944, the l7th centurystone archways and almost all the perimeter of Lima's Main Plaza, including the l8th and l9thcenturies wooden balconies, were demolished in order to build new neo-colonial buildings thatwould express in a "better way" the category of the old viceroyal capital, destroying in this wayone of the urban essences of the city. In Cusco, at the same time, a whole block of the historiccenter, including the old Mint, was demolished to build a hotel in Cusco's neo-colonial style.
 
After the 1950 earthquake, many of the archways of the Main Square were rebuilt, changing itsproportions, while the wooden balconies on the second floor were unnecessarily redone.
 
We had to wait in Peru until the diffusion of the Venice Charter s principles in 1965,along withthe foundation of the ICOMOS Peruvian Committee, by one of the persons who signed it,Architect Victor Pimentel, to start the preservation of our cultural heritage "with all the richnessof its authenticity".
 
This is related to the historical monuments, because in the case of the pre-Hispanic ones, manyarchaeologists, under the influence of the old Mexican School, insisted on rebuilding them,trying to give them authenticity by using the same materials, but falling in hypothesis tocomplete them. This happened in Puruchuco (Lima) and in a small area of Chan Chan (Trujillo).
 

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