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Peruvians rebuild ancient Incan rope bridge frayed during pandemic -- by weaving a new one

[June 18, 2021: Josh Shavit]

Peruvians from the Huinchiri community in Cusco region are rebuilding a 500-year-old Incan hanging bridge, made using traditional weaving techniques to literally string a crossing together spanning the Apurimac river far below.

The Q’eswachaka Rope Bridge had been in use for more than 500 years to connect communities divided by the river, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, it fell into disrepair and collapsed in March.

“Last year, because of the pandemic, it wasn’t strengthened... That is why at the beginning of this year, the bridge fell,” Cusco Governor Jean Paul Benavente said.

"This is community, in this particular case, the Huinchiri community from the Quehue district is currently working to string up this bridge that connects villages, but that also connects traditions and connects culture" added Benavente.

Members of the affected communities, such as the Huinchiri, decided to rebuild the 30m long bridge in the traditional Incan style: by weaving it.

Teams of workers, starting from both sides of the ravine and balancing on giant main ropes that had been stretched over the river, worked toward the center, putting in place smaller ropes as barriers between handrail ropes and the walkway’s floor.


“It is like an answer to the pandemic itself. From the depths of the Peruvian Andean identity, this bridge is strung up across the Apurimac basin, and we can tell the world that we are coming out if this little by little,” he said.

In 2013, UNESCO recognized the skills and traditions associated with the reconstruction of the bridge as cultural heritage.

Peru is rich in ancient treasure. It has hundreds of sites that date back thousands of years and span dozens of cultures, including the ancient Incan empire that was in power when Spanish troops arrived in the early 1500s.

“This is history — more than 500 years of a paradox in time. The Q’eswachaka, this Incan living bridge, is really an expression and cultural manifestation,” Benavente said.


"I don’t feel like it was being courageous or brave. I just feel like it was the right thing to do," she said.

Hospital officials say the man is still recovering and in serious condition. Another woman was also inside the home. Fire officials say when they arrived on scene she didn’t have a pulse, but crews performed CPR and were able to revive her. The woman is in the hospital and in critical condition, according to officials on Wednesday.

Fire officials believe the blaze started in the garage, but the cause is still under investigation.


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