Filed under Alumni

A Former Art History Student Goes To Peru

Summer 2010 – Jessica Blau

Jessica with the big stone in Sacsayhuaman - the last Inca stronghold against the Spanish - in Cusco

With the advent of the Haiti earthquake in January, I was very keen to volunteer there with the relief aid; however due to political tensions in Haiti, the organization I was set to volunteer with suggested that I also look into volunteer opportunities in Pisco, Peru, which had been victim to an earthquake of similar magnitude in 2007 and was still undergoing serious reconstruction. My first week there was spent working with Pisco Sin Fronteras, an all-volunteer organization that works on different reconstruction and construction projects while providing social services and working to create sustainability as well.  From my first moments there, I was impressed by this beautiful and ancient city.  At 11,600 feet above sea level high up in the Andes (compare to Denver at 5,200 ft.), one feels close to the sky, the sun, and the mountains.  It is unsurprising that Pachamama, the Inca mountain goddess who represents the mother, and Inti, the sun god who represents the father, have historically been such important figures in Peruvian culture. I was fortunate enough to attend the Inti Raymi sun festival, which happens every year during the winter solstice (June 21st).  It is the largest festival in South America, second only to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.  Thousands of people flock to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, the last Inca stronghold against the Spanish, to watch the five hour-long theatrical ceremony ending with the sacrifice of a llama to Inti, much of which is performed in Quechua, the dialect of the Incan social elites.  There are simply too many things to say about the art, archeological sites, natural wonders, and the people of Peru.  I have not even scratched the surface of the amazing things I experienced there and how meaningful they were to me.  All I can say is that having sat in the dark in Susan Aberth’s Survey of Latin American Art class, looking at slides of the very things that I got to see this past summer, I am incredibly grateful to have had that art historical background and the passion of such a fabulous professor to enrich my knowledge and my travels.   For an art geek, like myself, Peru did not disappoint.