[31] Cusco, A Resilient City

Cusco has something more interesting to tell than what we think of, it has a lesson to teach us which we should be keen to use!

I know Cusco is one of the mayor touristic attractions of Peru, even more, due to the entrance to Machu Picchu, it might be the main touristic attraction of whole South America. Being the gateway to the ancient Inca culture, and the former capital of the country, the city has been chosen as UNESCO World Heritage as well.

Further on, some years ago Cusco was part of the United Nations’ sustainability program for emerging cities and you can imagine how the city emerged with the number of tourists flooding the streets year after year. [Which reminds me of the story of Nuevo Tingo]

Cultural Mix

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However, the Spanish colonialists turned the former Inca capital into their capital, before moving the capital to Lima, the actual capital, Cusco is an excellent mix of both cultures, even more, it shows how the conquerors haven’t been the strongest nor the smartest of both. There is something remarkable in Cusco when walking through the streets. Some houses are built straight up to the sky, others are inclined, and others are a combination of both.

Earth Quake Proof

During history, several severe earthquakes destroyed important parts of the city, remarkably most of the Spanish buildings collapsed, while the Inca constructions survived. However, the Spanish colonialists considered the inclined Inca constructions as barbarian, they had shown now their usefulness.

The colonialists rebuilt lots of houses using the inclined Inca walls as base, while constructing straight walls on top, creating an interesting architectural mixture, however one that was more earthquake resistant than their own straight-up walls.

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Besides being inclined to resist earthquakes, the Inca walls have some other interesting characteristics, making them even more earthquake resistant. One of them is the shape of the stones, while the Spanish colonialists – and most modern western constructions – use stones of the same shape, the Inca stones are all unique and their creation itself is still a mystery. On top of that the Inca walls don’t contain any kind of cement, an essential element of the Spanish walls.

The three above mentioned factors cause the Inca constructions to resist the time and the earth quakes, while the Spanish buildings in huge parts went down. A city that is able to stand natural disasters, characteristic for its geographic position, is what we call nowadays a resilient city, a goal most cities are trying to reach, however that few cities reached already.

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