Posies & Selfies

27 December 2016 – We spend December 8 in the town of Orurillo, an easy motorcycle hop of 48 km or so from Ayaviri. Michaela knows the town well & loves it for its charm; like the rest of the Ayaviri team, she also cares a great deal about its church, el Templo de Santa Ana. It is high on their priority list for restoration support (should they ever be in a position to expand their efforts beyond Ayaviri).

Santa Ana is very old (late 16th c.), Oscár tells me, original but for the metal roof  — and one more example of the churches now crumbling away all over Puno Region. “The authorities have graded it as unsafe for human use. They use it anyway,”

So I’m eager to visit the church. But it’s not the first building to catch my eye, as we dismount in the central plaza.

Municipal Offices, Orurillo Puno District

I am enchanted by the municipal office building. Michaela is horrified at my enchantment, begins to reassess her opinion of my aesthetic instincts. Don’t care, I love it. The world now recognizes Andean Baroque as a valid school within the larger Baroque, I hereby launch my own support group for Andean Art Deco.  A touch of bright exuberance in the sere landscape.

But yes, the Templo de Santa Ana is much more important.

side wall, Santa Ana, Orurillo

This side door is disused, signs of erosion are visible across the entire adobe wall. Yet somehow, despite fragility and loss, everything about it still exudes a powerful sense of peace and calm dignity.

Especially that door …

disused side door

Lots of action at the main door, where townspeople are beginning to gather for today’s Mass. It will be a double celebration: the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, and the First Communion for an entire group of children.


detail, door in side wall


We go in. It is my first experience of one of these rural churches. Perhaps especially because of the simple exterior, I am entirely unprepared for what I see inside.

Templo de Santa Ana

Sumptuous, layer-on-layer, Andean Baroque glory. Propped up with scaffolding.

I blink at the centuries-old riches, the current extreme vulnerability, and find myself focusing — just for a moment of something easy to grasp — on the white posies at the end of each pew. Of course! To honour the First Communion.

I’m not the only one who is fascinated.

oh, the temptation!

I begin to take in more of the detail. Ornately framed paintings line both side walls …

side wall, Santa Ana

also with strategic support-poles, as needed.

supports throughout the church

Once the ornamentation was not limited to paintings & sculptures; the walls themselves danced with colour. Slightly later, and more decorous, tastes chose to cover up all that gaiety.

Now time is gaiety’s accomplice, and patches of colour escape to dance once more.

palimpsest -- earlier colour shows through the later whitewash


But they dance with the rest of time’s handiwork as well.

the wall cracks...

The Mass ends, the congregation makes it way to the door …

leaving Santa Ana after Mass

and into the warm sunshine beyond.

Where the excited new Communicants cluster with family, Padre Julian & friends …

& out into the sunshine

it’s Selfie-Time! Of course.

Michaela & I are invited for lunch by a couple who live in town. She has become warm friends with this family; over coffee, cheese, eggs & bread they swap affectionate updates. At one point, as context for a current situation, they allude to the era when Sendero Luminoso (“Shining Path,” Peru’s Communist Party) & government forces battled throughout this region for control.

As usual, the fight for abstract nouns led to countless very real deaths; also as usual, the poorest suffered the most. No-one here escaped the impact. Eyes veil for a moment, sentences are half-finished & end with sighs. The moment passes. Now is now. Again smiles, & another round of coffee.

We drive home through splatters of rain. Lightening dances in the mountains.



Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. This is a superlative post, taking me somewhere I will never go in the so-called real world. I love the fact that you’re no mere tourist: you’re part of the mass and then a family lunch. In a few words you show the glory of the church and its dire need for preservation. I love “time is gaiety’s accomplice” and where you take this idea. Your photos and text blend (not quite the word I want, but it won’t come) perfectly. I’m so glad I found your blog: thank you Jo again, I think.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

  • Recent Posts

  • Walk, Talk, Rock… B.C.-style

  • Post Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 108,079 hits
  • Since 14 August 2014

    Flag Counter
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,919 other followers

%d bloggers like this: