The Origins of Ayacucho-Style Retablos

The traditional Ayacucho-style retablo, one of the greatest expressions of Andean cultural and religious syncretism, has been declared Peru’s National Cultural Heritage since June 2019. It should be noted the Ministry of Culture announced last Wednesday that Retablo —a feature film spoken in the Quechua language— has been selected as the Peruvian pre-candidate for prestigious awards such as the Oscars and the Goyas.

This type of retablo has its origins in colonial times, when Spanish priests traveled across the Andes to evangelize towns in Peruvian highlands. They used to carry articulated boxes with images of several Catholic saints to make them known to the population.

These boxes were called “Cajas de San Marcos,” or Saint Mark boxes, and were taken as reference —by artisans— for the creation of the retablos.  The making of these art pieces started in the 1940’s using the San Marcos boxes as reference to design scenes with traditionally motivated themes, such as bullfighting, cockfights, traditional dances and parties, rural scenes, as well as agricultural work.

Ayacucho artisans adapted the new boxes and made them their own, changing their name to Retablos. You only need to see the patient and meticulous work required to create these pieces of art to understand that retablo artists are great storytellers.

There are craft workshops where people can appreciate the depurated technique that retablo artists have preserved throughout the time. Many of them are located in Quinua, a small town located 37 km away from the city of Huamanga at an altitude of 3,300 meters above sea level.

Thanks to the retablos and its urbanistic beauty with cobblestone streets and tiled roofs, Quinua is considered the capital of retablo artists and a destination that captive visitors, who enjoy an unforgettable experience while observing the production process and talking to retablo makers.

Fuente: Andina

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