The name of the traditional Cusco district of San Blas arrived thanks to the Spaniards, who baptized it that way at the beginning of the 16th century. This beautiful district located in Cusco is known as “The neighborhood of artists” due to its artisan variety.
The “Barrio de los artistas” is one of the main attractions of the city of Cusco and despite the reinventions, it is still that inspiring corner that we all love and witnessed during my stay.
Beautiful stone passages, viewpoints of the city, nocturnal bohemia and more. It is easy to imagine why San Blás is the refugie of artists. You just have to walk through it to feel yourself in a story that transforms in every corner, always towards something more interesting. San Blás has the label of “artisans’ neighborhood” not only because of the creative families that have emerged there (the Mendívil, the Olave, the Mérida, among others), but because until today it continues to inspire locals and travelers.
This district was very precious during the Inca period, when the nobility chose it as property. It was called “T’oqo-kachi”, which means in Spanish “hollow of salt”, the name “San Blás” was given by the Spaniards during the first half of the 16th century. His church was built in the middle of the XVI century with an indigenous hand (Spanierds had to build temples for their evangelization) and during this time the church has endured two earthquakes. It is the oldest church in Cusco and is on what was the temple to Illapa, god of thunder. Curiously, a few years ago lightning struck one of its wings and destroyed the stone cross. Inside it is the famous 400-year-old pulpit, allegedly made by the famous Quechua woodcarver and carver Juan Tomás Tuyro Tupaq.
San Blas changes every day but it is still that place where everyone wants to live or spend a novel season. However, the threat of an urbanization that grows disorganized, the madness of tourism and the lack of cleanliness could spoil its romantic splendor.
There are still some places of bohemia, live music, poetry, movies and culture in general. Unlike what the center offers, the night bars of San Blás guarantee a much more relaxed experience. For those who are interested in art or holistic activities such as yoga, meditation will find in this small district varied options.
San Blás also has its own in restaurants. There is food from all over the world, local dishes, vegetarian canteens, coffees, desserts, for all budgets. The neighborhood also has a small market at the end of Chihuanpata street as we saw in our post Breakfast at home.
The Bohemian Hills
Back in February last year, I lived in this beautiful neighborhood and met lots of people. I already know some of little little streets written in Quechua. One of the most difficult to remember was Atoqsaykuchi, which means “the rise of the tired fox”.
San Blás is one of my favorite places in Cusco. I love this side of the town very much. It grieves me when they knock down an old house to start a business, or those incomprehensible things like not having clean water after 7 pm, or that garbage control is a disaster. It is a neighborhood that is lost a few. As one friend told me: “San Blás was the neighborhood of artisans, now it is the laundries and hotels”. It is true, beyond romanticism, something profound and threatening is happening in the neighborhood.
Locals say that it, San Blas does not belong to the people of Cuzco anymore, but “to the gringos” and that the square meter costs as much as one house in Miraflores. The Cusqueños no longer feel part of it and some sell their demolished houses by the millions. It’s a good business San Blás, but as it goes, unsustainable.
When visit San Blás, pick up their garbage, send love to each corner and tell locals that it is the most beautiful neighborhood in the world, that as you know, the vibrations bounce infinitely and transform the stone towards states that we can not yet understand.