Hacienda Huayoccari: A Peek Into The 20th Century Elites Of The Sacred Valley

Terra Explorer
September 2, 2022

This is a story about one of our favorite tourist activities when going on the Sacred Valley excursion. Itineraries to the Sacred Valley of the Incas are steeped in colonial art and Peruvian farm-to-table food.

I was reared with tales of a time long gone. My father used to tell me stories about his childhood at the hacienda. His accounts were of abundance, lavish parties, and —now that I’m all grown and “woke”— about the caste system that benefited the unsupervised upper classes in the Andes. 

It took me some time to reconcile my family’s past with my current social-democrat values. What made this easier is how it was all just a memory. 

Back in the late sixties, leftist Peruvian president Velasco Alvarado sought to amend these class differences through what he called an “Agrarian Reform.” The goal: to hand the thousands of fields run by the hacendados to the impoverished indigenous communities —the ones actually working the land. 

To this day, we can discuss how necessary and well-intentioned the reform was, but how unfortunately shortsighted it turned out to be —as most of the prowess of the then-nascent agroindustry was forever gone. 

Right after the Agrarian Reform, my aging grandfather fell into depression. A few years later, cancer took his life. He found himself unable to steer or leap out of the sinking boat. With him, the life of surplus he and his ancestors forever knew was gone. The stories I heard were just that, stories. 

agrarian reform terra explorer

In the late ’90s, when my infant self finally met the country house where my father grew up, I was faced with a decaying architectural monster, fractionated carelessly, and occupied by small stores and restaurants.

In a way, it saddened me to have never seen the wallpapers my grandmother carefully imported, the polished wood floors at the ballroom, the bustling atmosphere in the kitchen every morning, and the stables bursting with horses. Not even the silverware was left. All vanished into time. 

And so, to witness now that other —more prolific and more fortunate— hacendados had managed to cherish some of their historic properties brings me (and many other visitors from different times and different places) an opportunity to peek into the lives of the Andean elites during the 20th century. A true oddity, considering the facts. 

Out of the two open to the public —Sarapampa and Huayoccari, both nestled in the Sacred Valley— the latter is the one to visit to relish oneself with 20th century’s Andean opulence, one in which baroque persisted way after its 1600s prime. 

Related: Top Three Luxury Trains In Peru

A Hidden Art Sanctuary

hacienda huayoccari decoration

Despite its colonial decor, the Spanish-style manor was actually built circa 1950. The walls, populated by baroque paintings, artifacts, and furniture, might suggest otherwise. This is no coincidence, nor a lack of notions of the changing art and design isms. 

In the 20th century, entrepreneur, politician, and art collector Don José Orihuela purchased the property. He was determined to garnish the house in Andean art

The provenance of the objects sprawled back into pre-Inca times until the circulating artistic expressions in Cusco, where the influential Escuela Cusqueña (a distinct style of Southamerican baroque developed during the conquista) was still being cherished as a beacon of the fervent catholicism emanating from the erstwhile Inca Capital. 

Don José Orihuela, his daughter Maria Cristina, his son-in-law Jesús Lambarri, and their descendants are the ones to thank for the expansive art collection

Today, Huayoccari houses historical objects from the Tiwanaku, Wari, and Inca Empires (if you’re unacquainted with Andean chronology, Tiwanaku and Wari were the civilizations who ruled most of current Peru and Bolivia before the Incas came into the picture) all the way into contemporary Peruvian folk art

And although some of their precious prehispanic artifacts have been donated to public museums, their collection is still bountiful. Besides, there’s nothing like an art tour led by the heirs who, like we’ve been saying, partake in the conservation and patronage of the arts.

A Garden Of Peruvian Orchids 

peruvian orchid garden terra explorer

I’ve never claimed to have inherited my grandma’s gardening proclivities, but that hasn’t prevented me from appreciating the marvel that is the orchid collection at the Hacienda Huayoccari. Why is it a spectacle, you might ask? 

Well, Peru is one of those hyper-biodiverse countries. It is home to thousands and thousands of orchid species. 

Ana Maria Barberis, one of the heiresses of the Hacienda, has poured her passed-down collector inclinations into her botanical garden. She is seizing on the unparalleled floral heterogeneity of the Sacred Valley. According to her, around two hundred varieties of orchids are native to the area. 

The garden hostess reminiscences on ancient legends about the enigmatic flowers. One stands out: The tears of a heartbroken Inca princess transfigure into the magenta-petaled Wikanki Orchid. What does Wikanki mean? “You will cry.”

Related: What can we learn from the genius stroke of Inca architects?

Farm To Table Dining

hacienda huayoccari restaurant

To this day, the Hacienda keeps its (much smaller) fields up and running. The fertile soil of the Sacred Valley allowed the Incas to develop giant corn. 

And if you have ever seen these goodies at Trader Joe’s, it is because of the efforts of the Lambarri Orihuela family to share this enormous, tender, slightly sweet maize with the rest of the world.

Naturally, lunch or dinner at Huayoccari gathers the cornucopia of fruits, veggies, and cattle from the famed valley—either from the family-owned fields or the neighboring communal farms. 

Besides maize and the expected greens, various types of potatoes march along the tables; some even exhibit a purple tint. This is a culinary expedition into new flavors and textures, all of them perfectly cooked in a homey fashion.

This Hacienda is just a two-hour drive away from Cusco. So it can easily be added to anyone’s itinerary. Contact our team to book a visit to Huayoccari, plus many other cultural and culinary experiences in the Sacred Valley.

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