There are several beautiful churches Arequipa, and a close inspection shows the strength of Inca culture in Peru.
Yes, the Spanish conquered the Inca in the 16th Century, but before the people of this region accepted and adopted Catholicism as their own religion, it was modified by the influence of the indigenous culture. This mixing of cultures and the changes that result from the mixing is called cultural diffusion. We saw this all over Spain because of the mixing of Islamic and European cultures.
A couple modern day examples are that there are McDonald’s restaurants in China and Dominican food in New York City! Can you think of any other examples of cultural diffusion in your neighborhood?
The Spanish loved to include grapes (not our GRAPES, just regular grapes that you eat) in their buildings, but there are no grapes in Peru, so they included corn, a staple of the diet in Peru in the engravings.
Why grapes, though? Well, grapes are used to make wine, which is used in mass in the Catholic tradition. Iglesia San Agustín, Iglesia la Compañía, the Jesuit Cloisters next door, and Iglesia Santo Dominto down the street all have examples of this type of cultural diffusion.
Additionally, the churches feature the sun, as the sun god was the most powerful god in the Inca religion, and the emperor of the Inca people was believed to be a descendent of that god.
The zig-zag pattern on these columns in the facade of Iglesia la Compañía is also a traditional Inca design.
My awesome tour guide, Johanes, pointing out the grapes and corn to my tour group in the Jesuit Cloisters.
Above, facade of Iglesia Santo Domingo, with a close-up below.
The facade at Iglesia Santo Domingo — grapes, corn, and Jesus with the sun featured prominently behind him.