CUSCO TO URCOS
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FROM CUSCO TO URCOS
By the banks of the Vilcanota
The path to Urcos leads us by territories of great importance in Cusco as its history dates from 800 BC with the settlements of Piquillacta. An importance that continued up to colonial times when these lands were considered as the richest of Peru. Its inhabitants, members of the Inca and Spanish nobility, landowners and merchants managed to have a big fortune.
To prove this fact, we have to observe the churches of the towns that despite of being small they have an astonishing decoration.
Currently, these provinces are mainly populated by peasants, for this reason it is not strange to meet shepherds leading their herds or to see farmers labouring their lands. It has an enjoyable landscape for the eyes of a tourist who is used to the noise of the city.
The path to Urcos is part of the route to Sicuani and Puno. To perform the circuit, you should take the road to Puno that is on excellent conditions. There are many possibilities of public transport as it is a very visited area. You can take any of the buses leaving the street of Haya de la Torre (next to the Regional Hospital) or also Garcilazo avenue (in front of the market of Huanchac). But if you choose the second possibility, realize that the trip will take longer as you should wait for the connections in the diverse stops. In Cusco you may hire the services of a taxi for one day at about 40 and 50 US$.
Apart from the situation of the Farm- House Valeumbroso and the Tipon, the access to all the places is quite simple and you do not have to take many detours. It is really important to remember that it is not easy to find good places to have luch nor adequate toilets along the road because it is an area of very little tourist infrastructure.
Urcos is situated about one hour and a half far from Cusco. However, visiting all the places Urcos offers you will take a whole day. Thus, you may combine this route with the visit to the archaeological remains founded in the area of Tipon and Piquillacta for instance.
To go by the road to Puno, it is necessary to cross Marcavalle. It can be interesting for history lovers and mainly archaeology lovers as here , according to recent studies, we find the remains of the first inhabitants of Cusco. Over the same "Cultura" avenue there is a preinca wall known as Colcapampa. These remains have been restored by the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Institute of Culture) and now they also protect them. They are 10 minutes far from the center, about 5 kilometers.
Nobody who is interested in the history of art can miss visiting this wonderful church of the XVII century decorated with paintings of the famous indian painter Diego Quispe Tito. It is situated 15 minutes far from the city. The district of San Sebastián is famous for keeping its traditional air in the narrow and stony streets decorated with tiny strong blue balconies.
The church occupies the whole square of San Sebastián despite of not being so small. The square is surrounded by the Hall Town and some restaurants. There is a corner where the monument dedicated to Quispe Tito calls the attention.
It was founded by orders of the viceroy Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza towards 1560 in a very important place historically as the battle of Salinas took place here on April 26th in 1538. The armies of Diego de Almagro fought against the armies of Hernando and Gonzalo Pizarro, Diego de Almagro died. In honour to death people and to bury them with dignity, they ordered to build a church in the place that was called San Lázaro. It was simple, made of adobes and without many ornaments. In the XVII century, the bishop Mollinedo decided to build there a real temple and paid most of the total cost to turn that small church into a great artistic monument. His initials are on the portico and the silver façade of the high altar.
It is has an excellent style. According to some statements of the North American researcher Harold Wethey, this was inspired on the facade of the catedral as its two towers had the same origin, though they differ from the use of Corinthian half columns. While the right tower dates from 1664, the left tower was just built in 1799 and it is a copy of the first one, as it happens in many other churches. The first tower has the names of the bishop, priest and indian nobles and the name of the architect Manuel de Sahuarahua. The portico was built in the second half of the XVII century and it also shows a clear influence of the Cathedral.
San Sebastián is one of the few idian churches with three naves. First, it only had one but then they added two naves to both sides. According to Wethey, there are so many common details between San Sebastiand and the Cathedral that we may suposse they were both built by the same architects.
To have a very good idea of the structure, it is better to observe the church from one of its sides. We suggest the right side where you will find a beautiful stone cross.
Diego Quispe Tito
This indian painter of noble origin is among the best national artists. He lived and worked in San Sebastián. Here we find most part of his paintings and, by the way, the most important: the series of San Juan Bautista, San Lázaro and the patron Sebastián. According to the family Meza, who especialised in the painting of Cusco, Quispe Tito was a painter of the town whose exceptional abilities transformed the painting from Cusco. With his work and landscapes of flowers, rivers and hills they imposed the Flemish influence. His first series of paintings and the most important is about San Juan Bautista that is signed. Then we find the canvases about the martyrdom of San Sebastian, also signed, the canvases of the passion of Christ, the doctors of the church, the childhood of Christ and an excellent series of landscapes.
If you want to visit the church, you need to start the circuit very early in the morning as during week days the temple is only open during the time of the masses, that is, from 7 to 8:30 in the morning or in the afternoon from 18:00 to 20:00 hours.
It is situated ten kilometers far from Cusco. It is easy to get to San Jeronimo as it is on the borders of the road. This part of the trip is really nice and allows us to admire the typical landscape of the countryside in Cusco that matches trees of eucalyptus with the red sand of the hills.
To enter the town you need to take a narrow street, going up to end in a wide and beautiful square crowned by a hermitage.
San Jeronimo keeps certain traditions, the peace of the country reigns in this place. Walking by its stony streets it would be easy to meet with horses, cows and sheep.
The church of San Jeronimo was first planned as a hermitage. According to the studies of Pablo Macera, part of the most important indian nobility lived here in order to show their power and prestige by the construction of this excellent temple.
According to Wethey, its architecture still keeps some details from the XVI century. The façade, for instance, is of Renascentist style. It is composed by three arches and a balcony in the upper part. The belfry that gives the temple a greater dimension is also important.
The main saint is San Jeronimo. The church is decorated with mural paintings which are not in good conditions. The best paintings are those of the Main Arch that are the oldest. The church is also proud of its splendid seven baroque altars.
The masses are every day from 5 to 8 in the morning. Every thursday at half past six in the afternoon they worship the Holy Sacrament. The adoration ends with a mass.
Leaving San Jeronimo, you will arrive at Saylla. If you have time and want to try the delicious "chicharrones", do not miss this opportunity. They are served with fried sweet potatoes, onions and corn. You may also try other specialities from this place such as the toctos prepared with the skin of toast pork.
People from Cusco are used to eating chicharrones in the afternoon from 16:00 or 17:00 hours after their working day finishes. They also come here on weekends searching for their sumptuous breakfast. There are many rural restaurants with yards at the back where children and adults play.
It is easy to see Oropesa from the road as this town occupies the hillsides at just five minutes far from the detour to Tipon.
It is a beautiful place with a nice square richly decorated in the middle of a quiet and kind atmosphere.
This village welcomes the visitor with the engraving that says: "Welcome to the Marquisate of Valleumbroso de Oropesa, the national capital of bread." In fact, since you arrive you will feel a strong smell of bread. Oropesa is proud of producing the best bread in Cusco. There are many ovens and most part of the population seem to be dedicated to this business. From here you get to the city. If you want a good fresh and delicious loaf of bread, do not hesitate to go to any of these ovens. You can recognise them because they usually have a little basket for bread at their entrances. If you do it, you will find the producers working and you may even be able to mould your own bread.
Oropesa has three chapels in total, and at the top of one of its hills we find a small calvary. But without any question, the main church is the most important with its rich mural decoration that has been recently restored.
The main parts of the façade are the images of San Pedro and San Pablo (Saint Peter and Saint Paul). The temple has one of the typical details of the local churches: the open chapel. It is a sort of balcony where the façade outstands. This is a common style in indian towns. From this balcnoy, the priest used to offer masses for the population.
It is very simple and follows the layout of the Latin cross. The walls of the nave are decorated with religious scenes and some baroque altars. Among his best preserved paintings we find the painting of Santiago Apostle. Above the windows, there are paintings of angels. The most important are the angels holding musical instruments. As it always happens, the oldest painting is the painting of the main arch. The baptistery deserves an especial attention for the paintings of the twelve apostles and musical angels.
To get to Lucre you need to take a detour for 15 minutes by a road on perfect conditions, and then go around the small lagoon called Lucre as well. It is a town situated in the hillsides. There is a big square with a monument dedicated to the Pacific War.
The famous factory of spinning
In Lucre, they established the factory of spinning and weaving of Cusco in 1861: the first of Peru and the third one in South America. During the colony, it was the factory of manufacturing of Lucre. Currently, they are building a hotel that will be called as "Trinidad Centro Hotel" and will have 3.7 acres. One of its attractions will be the exhibition of the textile machines.
The Lagoon of Huacarpay
This beautiful lagoon is surrounded by hills with andean terraces. At the back, there is a hotel called Urpicancha. The lagoon has a beautiful landscape. Very near on the left side of the road, we find the quarry of Rumicolca, and further the Complex of Piquillacta.
It is a small town situated only four kilometers far from Andahuaylillas. The most important attraction is, without any question, its church next to the wide square. In the square we can also find the Hall Town and a big watch.
It is a real prodigy of mural art: the talent of the great Tadeo Escalante. Inside the church, it is fully decorated, and although it was not all his work, one of the best qualities of this church is the feeling of harmony that they achieved as he was in charge of the work. The murals were made in 1802.
For art historians, he was the last "great painter of Cusco". Although he is so well considered, we hardly know about him. He was also said to be the author of the murals of the convent of Santa Catalina in Cusco and the church of Acomayo. But it was here, in Huaro, where he performed his greatest work showing his innovations and the path that the painting in Cusco followed at the beginning of the XIX century.
Most of them were painted by Escalante. If he did not paint everything we are sure he directed the work.
The main decoration is in the low choir and the areas near it. In this area would have been seven big samples. The most important were the murals of El Infierno (The Hell) and Las Dos Muertes (The two deaths).
The ceiling of Huaro is one of the most beautiful andean paintings. It does not follow the Mudejar style (apart from the ceiling of the Prebistery that is also the oldest one) nor the Baroque style. According to Macera, it belonged to an "andean rococo" style that gets free from standars and follows the author's imagination. Here, we can also see the criteria of the "fear for the emptiness" that is classic in the andean tradition. Something very important is that despite of being done by only one author, it seemed to belong to a global design.
The two deaths
"Regarding the murals about death, protecting the entrance door, it can be said that: on the left there is a very especial scene with three couples of lovers having dinner on a table, the group that is surprised by the Death is hiding behind a tree. From the tree, there is a bell that Christ rings announcing the end, the Virgin Maria, on her knees, is praying for the people eating. Death cuts the tree and devil pull it so it falls quickly…"
At the other side of the door there are two superposed scenes: Death in the house of the Rich and Death in the house of the Poor.In the first one, you can observe a festive where many ladies and men are wearing all fashion clothes. Without being notice by her mate, distract trying to take some food, the Death has chosen a woman. It is a skeleton holding the feet of the victim. In the upper part of the wall we observe the "Death of the Poor". The person dying is lying at home. We can see it thanks to the missing wall of the house that the author has omitted. Towards him and crossing the square, there is a procession going with the viaticum. The architecture and all the styles create a picture of lovely candour and simplicity".
Teresa Gisbert and Jose de Mesa.
The Last stages
According to Macera, nothing can be compared to the representation of hell. Escalante starts following a pictoric tradition which was very common in the colonial world because the topic of the final judgement is very frequent.
The first thing calling the attention is the skeleton in whose bones lies the poor soul. Next to it, we find the symbols of the terrestrial vanity: mitre, tiara and crown. The decoration takes the visitor to the last scene: the hell where the sinners jump one over each other and have severe tortures before passing by the boiling pot. A very important element is the dragon that eats the sinners.
The decoration may be described from the bottom to the top as follows: first you find the potatoes, then a border with sheep, and above that some scenes of saints such as San Alberto, San Martin de Porras, Santa Rosa de Lima and the Santiago Apostle. These scenes are mixed with the civil scenes of daily life, classics of the XIX century.
Only five minutes far from Huaro, going up and bordering the lagoon of Urcos, you will find the small church, a chapel. It is on the hill and from there it dominates the mentioned lagoon. It is very simple, but inside it there are very important baroque altars as well as mural paintings. The main altar is dedicated to the Virgen of the Candelaria. It is amazing that such a small chapel had a sumptous decoration.
It only proves the idea that it was a very rich area in the past.
According to the family Meza, the interior has many similarities to the church of Andahuaylillas because of the display of the ornaments and the purposes of the borders and ceiling. The murals are said to be made in 1685.
It is found under the small hill where we find the chapel of Canincunca. At the entrance there is a beautiful lagoon also called Urcos, where we can sail on boats and have nice trips if the climate allows us.
Urcos does not have many tourist attractions. It is a commercial city as it is a definitive point before arriving at Puno, Bolivia and Arequipa. It is a sort of port in the circuit of Lima-Cusco-Puno-Bolivia. This is the stop of all the busses and the trucks looking for food.
On Sundays they have a great market where important people from near localities meet. The church of Urcos had a notable decoration but a fire run out with all treasures and we hardly rescued many things.
In the center of the Square there is a monument dedicated to Tupac Amaru and the rebel caciques to remember that their dominions started there.
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