PERUVIAN ANDES FOLK ART
Santero boxes” originated in Europe and came to Peru with the Spanish Conquistadors in the 16th century. Before bringing them to Peru, the boxes were used as portable altars by medieval travelers and pilgrims and were carried by soldiers into battle during the Crusades. In Peru, they were used by the Spanish evangelists to teach the Catholic faith to the native “infidels”
The muleteers, traveling long and arduous journeys through the Andes, relied on the magic capacity of the boxes to protect them from mishaps on their routes. Often, they would not come across another living soul for many days and faced storms, loss of animals, sickness and the supernatural world that filled the Andes with spirits and demons. When they camped they placed them under a canvas awning with oranges and flowers and lighted candles to ask for protection during their trip.
The knowledge to produce these boxes was passed on from one generation to the next in families dedicated to creating and maintaining this traditional craft.
The leading craftsman of this movement is Urbano Huanca, He has developed the new style of testimonial retablos, the Santero boxes have evolved into custom.
The custom (costumbristas) depict the traditional festivals of the indigenous people such as Holy Week in Ayacucho, the branding of the llamas, alpacas, bullfights, the Dance of the Scissors, the hunting of the condor, and Nativity crèches. They also depict scenes from daily life such as craftsmen weaving, making hats and musical instruments; market scenes and healing ceremonies, farmers working, Andean parties.