The Shapes of Desire on Cerro Baúl
"After a 2,000-foot climb to the top of Cerro Baúl, the summit presents the illusion of being even higher; a far-away landscape as seen from an airplane. Fields, meadows, houses, and outbuildings flow in every direction to the edge of this bone-dry mesa in southern Peru. A closer examination reveals a sea of miniature replicas of houses, fields, and farmlands constructed by pilgrims who ascend Cerro Baúl to perform rituals, leave offerings, and build replicas of houses and farmland that they desire. Cerro Baúl remains an apu (sacred mountain) hundreds of years after it was a citadel for the Wari. Archaeologists (including UIC professors Ryan Williams and Donna Nash) are studying the remains of its temples, palaces, and brewery, but the stones that comprised these Wari buildings are being commandeered to build these miniature expressions of contemporary pilgrims’ wishes. My research considers this world of desires made visible in miniature from an art history perspective, and is a result of fieldwork I conducted in Moquegua in the summer of 2009. Cerro Baúl’s miniaturization project is preceded by a long history of Andean replication of the world and cosmos in miniature and my research explores past and present Andean miniatures as formal expressions of faith, power, and possession."