Christmas retablos from Ayacucho
Ayacucho’s retablos have their origins in colonial times, when Spanish priests traveled to all the towns of the Peruvian highlands to evangelize. They brought hinged boxes with images of various Catholic saints so the townspeople would recognize them. These were called St. Mark boxes and the craftsmen based their retablos on them.
During the 1940s they began creating these works of art, using the St. Mark boxes as a basis for designing scenes with different subjects from folk life, such as bullfights, cock fights, traditional dances and parties and rural and agricultural scenes. The craftsmen of the town of Ayacucho adapt the new boxes and make them their own, changing the name to retablos.
As Peruvian poet César Vallejo said, art comes from the people and is for the people. Their patience and thoroughness alone show that they are not merely makers of retablos, but true storytellers. In the town of Quinua, visitors can go to the craftsmen’s workshops and witness their age-old technique, passed down through time.
In Ayacucho, Quinua is considered an artistic destination with special and beautiful retablos that inspire love and wonder in its visitors. For this reason tourists are constantly converging on the workshops, where unique experiences await them. Quinua is located 32 km from Ayacucho and can be reached via a paved highway in perfect condition, opening the way for an encounter with its charms.
Christmas retablos from Ayacucho
Admiring the people of Quinua’s art is a true privilege. However, beyond its craftsmen, its cobblestoned streets and tiled roofs are enough to enchant anyone. The special style used by its artists is uniquely decorative and striking; added value that visitors can admire in their workshops and which is featured in their retablos
Today, retablos from Ayacucho are rectangular boxes normally made of cedar, which allows for better finishes on each work. The boxes are designed with a colorful scene and two doors bound by leather thongs. The outside of the boxes is decorated with colorful flowers, and the inside encloses images taken from Peruvian folk life.
The main subjects of retablos from Ayacucho are the crucifixion of Jesus Christ during Holy Week, Christmas, and the birth of Jesus. The latter range from depicting just Mary, Joseph and Jesus to the entire nativity scene, including the wise men and animals.
Each piece reflects professionalism and an extremely delicate finish in the characters’ features. One of the special features of each nativity scene is that characters are given an Andean style, representing the Andean Christmas. This makes them crafts sought by dozens of tourists from Peru and abroad.
The demand for retablos began to grow and their high sales have begun to help drive growth in the tourism sector as they are exported to different parts of the world. Furthermore, master craftsmen show their work at international fairs, making these crafts world renowned.
Today, these retablos continue to be created in the workshops of the craftsman, who each pass the secrets of the art down from father to sons, uncles to nephews, older brothers to youngers, always keeping it as a family tradition. This means that each work’s finish continues to have the same traditional and folkloric style that makes it unique.