National Geographic : 1950 Oct
422 Crumbled Tower and Buttressed Cloisters Proclaim the Ruinous Cusco Earthquake To the Incas, gold was the "tears wept by the sun," their deity. They made his temple a veritable gold mine, its walls sheeted with gold, its gardens filled with golden flowers and trees. Rumors of this treasure led Francisco Pizarro to conquer and loot the city in 1533. Spaniards, trying to erase Inca memory, converted palaces into dwellings, temples into churches. Here Monastery of Santo Domingo rises above the Temple of the Sun. Struck by earthquake, May 21, 1950, its Spanish superstructure cracked, its Inca walls endured. headed the University of Cusco; for three he served as the city's mayor. The Cusquefios for the most part accepted the disaster philosophically, and I found them cheerfully tackling the job of cleaning up the wreckage. The Peruvians are among the most gracious of all Latin Americans. The Cusquefos particularly possess a charm all their own, as distinct as their Inca heritage and the unusual city which is their home. But the tragic aspects of the quake were always present. As I was strolling in San Agustin Street, for example, I came to a corner where an adobe house had collapsed into a heap of rubble. Atop a section of an adjoining wall sat the owner, an elderly woman. Men were clearing away the debris. At intervals one of the workers would pause, hold up a tattered remnant of household equipment or a damaged trinket. "Shall we save this?" he would ask. "No, it's of no use now. Throw it away with the rest," she would respond in a voice of resignation. To return and see old friends and familiar surroundings under such circumstances was sad. Restoration will require several years. How ever, if plans materialize, the city eventu ally will be even more interesting than before, since a distinguished group of scientists and archeologists is studying plans to make res toration as accurate as possible. Recalls First Visit to Peru My return to Cusco recalled some of my first contacts with the fascinating people of the Peruvian Andes. With Rosita, my Spanish-American wife, I had taken an air tour around South America. We first touched Peruvian soil at Lima, but because we were eager to see the mountain country-most of all, Machu Picchu-we took off next morning for the short hop to Arequipa.