Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Art & Art History

First Advisor

Annette de Stecher

Second Advisor

Robert Nauman

Third Advisor

Cathy Comstock


The imperial Inca Empire (1438 to 1533), Tawantinsuyu, which spanned Panama and most of western South America, was centered in Cuzco in modern-day Peru. After Spanish occupation in 1533, Cuzco began to transition from the former Inca capital into a Spanish colonial cuidad. Thus, in post-Conquest Cuzco, urban planning embodied important cultural and political messages. The brick and mortar of Spanish colonial edifices and the spatial layout of seventeenth-century Cuzco reinforced socio-ethnic order, imperial Spanish authority, and the supremacy of Christianity. However, the city’s inhabitants, Andean native peoples and Spanish colonizers, understood the symbolic and material significance embedded in their shared environment in significantly different ways. Whereas the Spanish based their understanding of space on Euro-Christian utopian ideals, the Inca used urban space to celebrate their ritual mastery over the unordered natural environment and its peoples. These fundamentally different worldviews, each developed before contact, continued to exist within colonial Spanish frameworks. This thesis explores how space was conceived, constructed, and contested within colonial society by analyzing seventeenth-century maps, paintings, and ethnohistoric accounts of Cuzco. It considers the historical significance of the former Inca capital and documents changes and continuities between pre-Hispanic and Hispanic colonial architecture and cultural practices. Thereafter, it contends that colonial Cuzco retained elements of its pre-Hispanic Andean identity after the Spanish occupied and redesigned it. Cuzco and its inhabitants—both Andean and Spanish—adapted to the new colonial context by integrating Spanish and indigenous elements, ideologies, and designs into a new, highly contested spatial lexicon.