The center of the city of Cuzco, the Plaza de Armas, lies at the bottom of a
shallow valley, with streets fanning out in three directions toward the sur-
rounding hills. During my research in Cuzco’s archives I lived in a house
perched high on the hillside that leads down to the colonial center and up to
the Inka citadel of Sacsayhuaman. As I looked out of my window beside the
Cuesta San Cristóbal, the city spread out before me like a relief map, with
the cathedral and churches of La Compañía, San Francisco, La Merced,
Santa Ana, and Belén overshadowing the two-story buildings around them.
It is not just the physical dominance of the church that continues to this day.
Living in one of the former parroquias de indios, or Indian parishes, I became
intimately acquainted with the city’s ‘‘soundscape’’ alongside its townscape,
and I soon learned that many of the sounds of the colonial city can still be
heard in modern-day ceremonies. Confraternities process through the par-
ishes to the sound of trumpets, drums, and fireworks, just as they did three
or four centuries ago. Shawms and sackbuts have been replaced by clarinets
and saxophones, but the city still echoes with music on saints’ days and
public holidays. In Cuzco, barely a week goes by without a parish fiesta or
funeral procession, each with Andean musicians playing a leading role.
In the city center, the sounds of Cuzco are more diverse. Traditional
Andean instruments feature in tourist restaurants and in civic parades in the
main square, and there is even an Andean band that plays by the luggage
carousel in the airport, ensuring that many visitors’ first experience of the
city is a musical one. But by night, in the bars and clubs where middle-class
Cuzqueños mix with younger foreigners, the music takes listeners to dif-
ferent places. Peruvian djs spin tunes—rock, salsa, trance, drum ’n’ bass—
that blend their cosmopolitan aspirations with those of the local dancing
public. Foreigners, especially those on longer trips away, may think nostal-
gically of home.
Such musical imaginings are not new to Cuzco: they have been a feature