Posted by: David Giacalone | September 24, 2013

Lawrence’s controversial Peruvian sibling


– “Piel Roja,” in Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru (1945); photograph by Frank Scherschel for Life Magazine

  Here in the Schenectady Stockade, we love and honor our statue of Lawrence the Indian, which was formerly known as “No. 53 Indian Chief”, in the J.L.Mott Iron Works statuary catalog. (See Looking for Lawrence for more of the statue’s story.)  If we have a dispute concerning Lawrence, it is not about whether he belongs in the heart of the Stockade, but is likely to be a neighborhood kerfuffle over how to treat him with sufficient respect: e.g.:

  Are his feathers arrayed correctly?

Are our pink flamingos just too tackyimg_3404

Lawrence-Val-VanDyck . . Or, is it undignified to take him to a saloon for photo opportunities and fund-raising?

Lawrence-aloft   When we put ropes around Lawrence and remove him from his perch, it is to assure that the statue and pedestal are properly cleaned and restored to glory.  We also make Lawrence the center of many of the Stockade’s most important events, from its Outdoor Art Show to its Christmas Tree lighting, and he graces the masthead of this weblog.

Citizens of the Saylor Park neighborhood of Cincinnati have shown similar affection for Tecumseh, their version of No. 53 Indian Chief.  Their mayor, circa 1940, sold Tecumseh to an antiques dealer for $10, because it had been damaged in a couple of auto collisions and submerged by a flood.  Angered greatly, Saylor Park neighbors spent months finding the statue and restoring it to its tiny triangle park. In 2002, ninety years after he was first erected, Tecumseh was extensively repaired, recast in bronze, and rededicated. (See this Queen City Survey weblog post from 2008 about Cininnati’s “Tecumsheh”; and Barberton High School’s retelling of the story in their tribute to Chief Hopocan, the local incarnation of No. 53 Indian Chief.)

Map-Schdy-CuzcoTherefore, given our pride in the Stockade’s statue of Lawrence the Indian, I was surprised to learn recently that Cusco’s “sibling” of Lawrence is no longer standing atop a magnificent fountain in a grand plaza, as is depicted above in a 1945 Life Magazine photo.  Furthermore, long derided as “Piel Roja” (“Red Skin”), or “Azteca,” or “the Apache”, the Indian in Cusco, Peru, was not taken down due to deterioration, or to be refurbished; nor was he moved to a location more in scale with his size to grant the statue more prominence, like Lawrence at his Circle.

[Note: At the bottom of this posting you will find information about the names and spellings of the City of Cusco, in the Province of Cuzco, Peru.  It should not be confused with Mount Kisko, NY, which coincidentally also has a version of Mott’s No. 53 Indian Chief” on prominent display, named Chief Kisko.]*

Cusco-topplePielRojaPosterAfter being resented for more than half a century as a North American Indian inexplicably given a place of honor on an ancient Inca holy site, Cusco’s Red Indian was toppled by a drunken journalist and other Inka protestors, on September 5, 1969. The 2011 poster to the right, proclaims an Inca Revival. (click on it for a larger version) The last point declared on the poster states, as translated by Vicente Goyzueta:

“at dawn on Sep 5th 1969 the statue of the ‘aztec’ or ‘red skin’ is torn down, leaving from that moment the central fountain empty for more than 42 years. “

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 9.14.10 AM The incongruous figure of a North American Indian — its facial features, clothing, and weaponry inapt as a replica of an Inka — can be traced back to a Philadelphian, Albert Giesecke.  Giesecke came to Cuzco as a young man and spent the rest of his life in Peru, serving as rector of Cusco University, city councilman and mayor of Cusco, and in several other roles, including as an advisor at the American Embassy in Lima.  Although seemingly steeped in the history and culture of Cusco, and in the tension between its Inkan and colonial past, Giesecke brought back No. 53 Indian Chief from a trip home, and placed it atop the fountain in Cusco’s main square at some time early in the second decade of the 20th Century.

CuscoInca-002 When “Piel Roja” was violently removed in 1969, the fountain was left with only a spout of water on top until 2011.  Many residents of Cusco, having the customary human tendency toward historical amnesia, forgot that the fountain originally had no statue for a half century, from its placement in 1871 until Giesecke’s “gift” of Piel Roja.  Thus, when the Cusco mayor surprised festival-goers by unveiling a large Inka on top of the Plaza de Armas fountain in 2011 (see image at head of this paragraph), he set off another round of controversy, with dissent from many sides.

Some of the dissenters said it was traditional to have no statue atop the fountain, they having no memory of Piel Roja; many argued that Cusco should not emphasize its Inka past so extensively and exclusively; some argued that the new statue was a rather silly representation of an Inkan; others pointed out — as we surely would here in the Stockade — that the mayor had not obtained the necessary permission from the Ministry of Culture under laws that protected important heritage sites like Cusco from inaprorpriate change; and, of course, some railed at the expense, and claimed the mayor did not have an appropriate source of funding.  See  “Inca statue raises more controversy one year later”, by Professor David Knowlton, at his Cuzco eats weblog (Aug. 15, 2012).; also see, photographer Jorge Sosa Bell’s “The Inca of Discord” (June 27, 2011)

Prof. Knowlton points out at Cuzco eats that billboards depicting Piel Roja have been placed near the fountain “to justify the claim that the statue does not violate the historical integrity of the fountain since there was once a statue there.”  Thus, we have the ironic resurrection of good old Indian Chief No. 53, the quintessential non-Inka native American, to help support the legitimacy of a statue erected to symbolize an Inkan Revival.

Map-Schdy-Cuzco My virtual travel almost 4000 miles due south from Schenectady to Cuzco began earlier this month, when I saw that someone had been referred to suns along the Mohawk from a website authored by Vicente Goyzueta, named Qosqo, Inkas’ Sacred Capital.”  I wish to heartily thank Sr. Goyzueta for linking to this weblog in his “Cusco/Kisko” piece, a webposting and photo-spread that focuses on the striking similarity — “mismo” — between the Cusco Indian and the fictional “Chief Kisko” in Mount Kisko, NY.  It also presents pictures of other versions of Indian Chief No. 53, including Lawrence.  More important to the success of this posting, when I contacted Vicente with questions about the Cusco Indian, he graciously told me more about the Indian, Cusco, Giesecke, and himself, in a series of email messages.  [Of course, as authors customarily exclaim, any misstatement of facts or misinterpretations of history herein, are solely the humble Editor’s responsibility.]

  Although a Cusco native, Vicente now lives in Tarrytown, NY, from which he traveled to Schenectady to see Lawrence.  He is proud of his “hometown”, where he was a professional tour guide for over a decade, and has written a guidebook that distills his knowledge.  Vicente describes his website as an “Homage to the Mystical, Magical, most Famous and oldest City of the American Continent.”  He wrote me that:

“Qosqo [now known as Cusco] is actually the oldest living city in the American Continent, with a continuous settlement of more than 3,000 years.“

That puts into perspective our Stockade history of just over 300 years, and our claim as the oldest residential neighborhood in the U.S.A.

 Vicente translated a paragraph from his essay about Albert Giesecke, to give us more background on the Cusco Indian:

“When Hiram Bingham [“discoverer” of Machupicchu] returned to Cusco for his last expedition in April 1915, he found in the center of the main square a memorial to an American Indian, it was a representation not of an Inka, but of an American Indian that Giesecke bought in Philadelphia. Many people in Cusco called the statue the “Red Skin Indian” or “Apache”, some said it was the representation of [16th Century Aztec Emperor] Cuauhtemoc that had been mistakenly sent to Cusco, while the one of Atahualpa [the last sovereign emperor of the Inca Empire before the Spanish Conquest] that was supposed to go to Cusco was sent to Mexico.”

Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 9.10.03 AM . . . Cusco-NoStatue . .CuscoInka

– fountain shown with Piel Roja [L], without a statue [M] and with its golden Inka, erected 2011, which is also controversial  –

In addition, Vicente wrote me in an email message:

 “When I was a little kid I was impressed by the Indian statue in the Main Square of Cusco, later I learned that it was pulled down by a drunken journalist who did not like it. Once in NY, my sister told me about the story of Chief Kisko but I did not believe that it was an Inca placed there by mistake.”

 Skoll-LawrenceFlamingos Please allow me to close with a subject that may seem like a bit of a tangent: flamingos. My introduction to the Cusco Indian came about shortly after our recent Outdoor Art Show, where the fabric art exhibit of Beverly Skoll had got me thinking about Lawrence’s pink flamingo history.  Her colorful piece “2 flamingos revisit Lawrence: the Stockade” [pictured at the left of this paragraph], echoed our 2011 Valentine display, and reminded me that plastic pink flamingos might be a thing of the past at the Lawrence Circle on Valentine’s Day.  I was in that melancholy mood when looking at the Cusco Indian’s situation for differences and similarities with our Lawrence.

Screen shot 2013-09-012 . . . Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 9.10.03 AM

 Naturally, my eyes were drawn to the long-necked, long-legged birds frolicking under Piel Roja.   However, despite Peru’s significant connection to the species, they are probably not “flamenco rosa” — their beaks do not look sufficiently arcuate to be flamingos, and I see no red or pink hues on their wings or bodies in the photos taken of Piel Roja.

CuscoInka-bird Things are complicated by the red paint we see on the recent photos of the fountain under its Inka statue.  If forced to choose, I’d call them great white egrets or some other form of heron.  But, rather than being a difference between Cusco’s Indian and the Stockade’s Lawrence, I see them in shape and spirit to be forerunners of our pink flamingo custom — a lighthearted counterbalance to the stoic seriousness of No. 53 Indian Chief and all his clones.  Spotting them in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas gives me hope that Lawrence’s feathered friends will return to the Stockade for Valentine’s Day 2014. [follow-up: The flamingos did return to Lawrence late on February 13, 2014, and again for Valentine’s Day 2015. Also, see “Valentine Flamingos in the Schenectady Stockade: whimsy and mystery at Lawrence Circle“, my first photobook.]

pink flamingos daily stockade schultz standalone . . . Screen shot 2013-09-10 at 9.14.10 AM

– Lawrence [L] and Cusco’s Piel Roja –

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* You probably have or will notice that I have used the spellings Cusco and Cuzco interchangeably (and arbitrarily) in this posting.  Here is some of what the Wikipedia entry about Cusco/Cuzco says in its Spelling and etymology section:

“The indigenous name of this city is Qusqu. Although it was used in Quechua, its origin has been found in the Aymara language. . . .

“The Spanish conquistadors adopted the local name, transliterating it into Spanish as Cuzco or less often Cozco. Cuzco was the standard spelling on official documents and chronicles at the colonial epoch.[3] In 1976, the city mayor signed an ordinance banning the traditional spelling and ordering the use of a new one, Cusco, in the municipality publications. Nineteen years later, in 23 June 1990, the local authorities officialized a brand new spelling instead: Qosqo.

“In English, both s and z are accepted, as there is no international, official spelling.”

It seems therefore, that being arbitrary and fickle may be the only historically accurate way to deal with the spelling of the name of Qusqu/Cusco/Cuzco/Qosqo.

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