“Cultural Patrimony” — & a child with a flute

25 December 2016 – Everything, of course, flows from the imposing, 18th-c. Cathedral.

San Francisco de Asís is the still centre of it all: spiritual purpose; spiritual, artistic & cultural resource; the heart-beat that drives Padre Miguel’s campaign to help people value, truly connect with, their own heritage.

Catedral San Francisco de Asís

But this is where you feel the connection being made — in the cheerful, very approachable little Cultural Centre & Museum, a few blocks away on Jirón 25 de Diciembre, whose front reception room doubles as a restoration workshop for objects that can be hand-carried from the Cathedral.

Centro Cultural y Museo, Ayaviri


Michaela performs introductions; I talk first with Oscár, a seasoned art restorer & consultant in the field, while his younger colleague, Jesús, continues to work quietly in the background.

“You came here a couple of years ago ‘for two months,’ ” I tease him. “What happened? Lose track of time?”

Penny, Jesús (background) & Oscár in the restoration studio of the Centro Cultural


He grins, shrugs his hands into a there-it-is gesture. “I feel a very strong social motivation,” he says. “For me, this work is all about taking pride in our past, respecting our past. Everyone is welcome, people come in, they see us loving these objects, bringing them back to life, they see the results in the museum, it can open another dimension in their lives, a very special space …  Young people especially,” he adds. “They come in, they’re not intimidated, they feel this is part of their lives.”

He is silent a moment. He draws breath. “We have to do something! Here in Puno Region, there is so little protection for this culture.”

And so, in this former mining-company office, now owned by the Prelature of Ayaviri, they are doing their something.

Jesús still bends over his work …


Jesùs at work


and Oscár leads me on a quick tour of the Museum, which houses restored objects that have no role in the present-day liturgy, most of them from the 17th & 18th centuries.

The first room is devoted to sculptures, including — and I chose it with today’s date in mind — a Nativity scene from the early 18th century.

Nativity scene early 18th c.

Unusual, says Oscár, because the figures are near life-size. Unusual too, I think, for the very tender treatment of the animals.

detail, Nativity scene

Next room, paintings. Almost all the paintings & sculptures are identified as anonymous works of the Cuzceño school, including this Señor de los Tremblores (late 17th-c., painted on linen).

Señor de los Tremblores

Now a room devoted to silver and liturgical objects. I am embarrassed to have taken no specifics about two of these wonderful items. Neither this silver plate …

silver offertory plate

nor this hand-stitched case, probably for Mass linens, surely the work of patient, skilled nuns?

linens case, hand-stitched

But I do know something about this portable wooden altar (retablo de campaña).

It is early 18th c., and, unlike almost all the other items in the collection, comes from elsewhere. In this case, from the church in Orurillo — which I am about to visit in a motorcycle day trip with Michaela.

portable alar, early 18th c.

The last room is devoted to regional archaeology — everything from snakes coiled in protective fluids in jars (“Eeeuwww!” go the schoolkids, delighted) to pottery. This vessel probably dates from the Qaluyo culture, which pre-dated not only the Inca but the Pukara before them.

vessel, probably Qaluyo culture

Next to all that, a children’s corner, with child-sized tables & art supplies, where young visitors can share their impressions, enter the artistic dialogue.

Could I be more pretentious?

How about… where the kids can grab a crayon & have some fun.

kids' corner

Speaking of fun. We follow our ears to the tiny central patio, drawn by giggles & chatter, to discover  a handful  of kids has wandered in — not part of an official school visit, just ’cause they want to.

One little boy clutches a flute. Oscár asks him to play.

child plays his flute in the patio

One of those plaintive Andean flute-strains fills the air. (Why do I think of the tremolo of a loon’s call?)

I am so touched. The children feel welcome, and want to visit. They hang around. They connect.

Cultural patrimony in action, I think. Exactly why Padre Miguel, Oscár and the others put in all these hours, day after day, doing what they do.


The team is physically in their little corner of the altiplano, but the Internet touches all corners. (Note: these three sites are all in Spanish.)

  • For more about the history & architecture of the Cathedral, click on this Enciclopedia entry;
  • for an appreciation of the work that is starting to happen, including some reference to the restoration workshop, click on this Sodalicio report;
  • and for a visit by Telecultura Ayaviri to the workshop, check out YouTube !






Leave a comment


  1. A totally fascinating post. What an ongoing adventure.

  2. Love following your adventures at home and abroad, Penny…..looking forward to more of the Peru stories. Sorry that you had to experience altitude sickness and glad that friends were there to get you through it.

  3. I too love the animals. Such sweet faces on them.
    Thanks for sharing!


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