Graham Letorney

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Location: Brooklyn, NY
Nationality: Vermonter
Biography: Graham Letorney is a New York City-based designer and entrepreneur. Graham got an early start at the age of 13, memorizing fonts and coding websites as an apprentice to the art director of a classic Land Rover parts business and popular Land... read on
Public Project
Once Inca
Credits: graham letorney
Date of Work: 05/01/08 - 05/31/08
Updated: 01/06/19
Location: Cusco, Peru
Archived as:  ,

Once Inca 

This account starts on March 16 in the valley of Cuzco, Peru.  Upon arrival, the small city was dry and exhausting with a piercing sun over arid mountains.  I found Cuzco quiet and clean except for a thick dust that blew in, covering everything at once—moments later the dust would reced, leaving things just as they were. On March 17th I began looking for signs of Cuzco's legacy; before its conquest by the Spanish, Cuzco was home to the Incas.  Now it is home to an Andean culture held back by five hundred years of Spanish rule; somewhere the condor and the bull were wrestling for identity.

The Quechuas of the Inca Nation are a people with a history of great ceremony, spiritual wealth and ancient religion.  They brought the world the potato, the llama and the condor.  The Quechua language is based on three vowels, relies on a dizzying amount of suffixes, and is widely used throughout Andean South America with over forty significant dialects. 

Each day from March 18 to 27 was divided between walking the old city and teaching English at the Qusqu Maki Children’s Center.  Here the majority of children were from surrounding agricultural communities. Many were seeking to use English as a way to start a new career; yet this made me look towards that which they were outgrowing.

On March 27 my wife Adriana Teresa met a Quechua Jeweler named Romulo at one of the many markets.  His craft was a family tradition passed down to him through five generations of artisans. We sat in his studio behind the market as he took the time to talk with us.  He spoke of the increasingly Western outlook fostered in schools and of his culture’s resistance to adopting Spanish as an official language.  This challenge has been confronted by each generation since the mid-1500s when Francisco Pizarro, with a few hundred Spaniards, divided and conquered an Inca nation of over a million strong.


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