From January 8-13, the American TFP’s sister organization in Peru, Tradicion y Accion por un Perú Mayor, held a seminar of Catholic formation for students near the ancient and historical city of Cuzco. This second annual week of lectures, prayer, recollection, and visits to local religious and historical sites inspired its participants to Catholic militancy and greater appreciation for the authentic Catholic history and culture of Spanish South America.
Divided by the Andes Mountain range, Peru’s geography is vast and awe inspiring. To the east, a thin coastal strip and the vastness of the Pacific Ocean; to the west, the Amazon river basin and rainforest, with its exotic flora and fauna. But by far the most breathtaking part of the country is the area around the city of Cuzco, the capital of the ancient Incan Empire. Jagged, snow-capped peaks divided by deep, fertile valleys are the norm throughout this region. At 11,500 ft, Cuzco is one of the highest cities in the world.
The student conference took place nearby at the Hotel Monasterio de la Recoleta, a former Franciscan monastery, in the small village of Urubamba, about one hour from Cuzco. Although now a hotel, this sixteenth century stone monastery has lost little of its Spanish colonial splendor. It was an ideal setting to discuss the Catholic history and culture of Peru and counter-revolutionary strategy to defend its remnants.
The beautiful architecture of Cuzco and the surrounding area provided an ideal setting for prayer and study.
Urubamba is located in the middle of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the heart of the ancient Incan Empire. This breathtakingly beautiful valley, encircled by jagged mountains, extends for miles and is full of Incan ruins and Spanish colonial architecture. The conference participants came from all over Spanish South America, including Peru, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina.
The lectures were both highly interesting and profound, and covered such topics as The Revolution and Counter Revolution in our days – An overview of Latin America, From Modernism to Progressivism – Revolution and Counter-Revolution in the Church, and Theory and Practice of the University Student’s Apostolate. The talks sparked lively discussion and conversation throughout the conference.
In addition to the daily lectures, the participants went on several outings to the Catholic and Inca sites of the area. The first destination was historic Cuzco. What marks the city is the influence of the Catholic Church. In the main square, the Plaza de Armas, one finds the Cathedral, flanked by two auxiliary churches, Our Lady of the Triumph, and the Church of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In the cathedral is a miraculous crucifix credited with stopping the famous earthquake of 1650, which threatened to level the city. The city inhabitants thronged to the Plaza de Armas with the crucifix, imploring Our Lord to save them. Immediately upon reciting the Apostle’s Creed three times, the earthquake trembles stopped. From that day forward, this crucifix was known as Nuestro Señor de los Temblores (Our Lord of the Trembles).
The Mercedarian Monastery of Cuzco provided an excellent example of the Cuzco school of art, founded by the Jesuits in the early sixteenth century. As they commonly did, when the Jesuits arrived they founded a university and school of painting, which came to be known as the Cusqueño School. This school, made up exclusively of Inca Indians, developed its own highly developed style and painting techniques, which became so famous that artists came from Italy to exchange ideas and techniques. Characteristic of the Cusqueño School is their painted angels, in baroque style clothing, with arquebus at the ready.
One of the days was spent at the historic ruins near Ollantaytambo. This small village, populated –like the rest of the Sacred Valley– almost exclusively by Indians, retains many Incan characteristics. Most of the buildings were either built by the Incas or on Incan foundations. One can still see the ruins of terraces in the valley that were used to grow crops. The students visited the village and hiked up the valley walls to the ruins of an Inca prison.
The closing banquet on the night of January 13 was an opportunity for the college students to express their gratitude and make firm resolutions for the battle ahead. A representative from each country gave a speech about how they liked the conference and their plans for the future. Many expressed their gratitude to Our Lady for the graces received and put their future actions under her patronage.
The second annual Catholic University Student Conference in Peru was a great success. Not only did its participants learn how to oppose the errors of our days in Latin America, but also appreciate some of the rich history, geography, and culture of this Catholic continent. When visiting Peru, one gets the impression that although it has been settled by the Spanish and their descendants for nearly 500 years, and by Indians for more than 1000 years, it is a nation whose history has yet to be written. If faithful to its Catholic roots, Peru, and indeed all Latin America, has a great future.