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Ayacucho Crafts
A close up of one of Alfredo López’s hand-painted wooden crosses.
A close up of one of Alfredo López’s hand-painted wooden crosses.
Photo by Josué Castilleja, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

Since the pre-Hispanic era, the region of Ayacucho has been characterized by its music and crafts. The cultural expressions in this Andean valley have adapted and changed over time, especially in the face of violence during the 1980s.

Many crafts have evolved from utilitarian to decorative since the introduction of highways and railroads, which brought low-cost industrial products into the market. The creativity and persistence of these artisans has also been tested through the era of terrorism and subsequent loss of tourism, but they have held onto their traditions and created new urban and international market opportunities.

Tin Crafts

Originally, Ayacucho tin artisans fabricated utilitarian objects such as pails and candelabras using a mix of Spanish and Wari metallurgy techniques. With the advent of industrially produced plastic and electric candles, artisans such as the Araujo family have adapted by making decorative crafts. Jang Araujo inherited the tradition from his father but incorporated motifs from the retablo, or story box, a tradition practiced on his mother’s side, to create innovative crosses and mirrors imbued with his cultural surroundings.


Every year, craft makers from Cangallo province create masks for Three Kings Day (January 6). The masks are used by dance troupes who perform to celebrate Jesus’s birth. With a mixture of flour paste, sugar, and glue Nilo Prado creates masks with different combinations of colors and styles, differentiating the three categories of dancers: guides, children, and machus, or captains.

Painted Wood Crafts

In colonial times, story boxes were used to spread Catholicism across Ayacucho. Following in his family tradition, Alfredo López makes story boxes, or retablos, illustrating religious celebrations and everyday life stories. Before he begins his work, López gives thanks to the earth by making an offering to the mountain spirit Apu Huatuscalle. He creates scenes of Andean celebrations, town festivals, and artisanal and agrarian activities.


The Santa Ana neighborhood in Ayacucho is noted for its tapestries characterized by a creative combination of pre-Hispanic and contemporary Western influences. Inspired by the recovery of ancient technology and Wari cultural themes, maestro Alfonso Sulca weaves traditional symbols and patterns with a contemporary aesthetic. His weaving techniques are typical of the region.


Quinua, known as the town of ceramicists, is located in Ayacucho in the south-central Andes at the heart of pottery production. Deeply rooted in the history of the region, traditional ceramics have an important place in contemporary homes. In his family workshop, maestro Mamerto Sánchez continues to mold miniature red clay churches which are installed on the roofs of new homes to protect and bless them. He also makes bull figurines, which symbolize fertility.

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