A museum honoring Peru’s national poet, Cesar Vallejo, opened its doors recently to visitors in the small town of Santiago de Chuco, marking the completion of what will become a major cultural attraction in the city where he was born and spent part of his life. The museum is the poet’s restored childhood home and exhibits his life and work.
For the people of Santiago de Chuco and Peru, the project was long overdue and Barrick’s ongoing relationship with the local government and the Ministry of Culture made it possible. “When we first saw the house in disrepair we thought something had to be done,” says Carlos Cabanillas, Barrick’s Manager of Corporate Affairs in Peru.
In 2010, Barrick decided to support a two-phase project to restore the poet’s house. Through its voluntary contributions to Peru’s Mining Solidarity Fund, the company donated $464,000 for the project. After receiving permission from the Ministry of Culture to begin the project, Barrick hired restoration experts from Patrimony Peru, a company that specializes in restoring historic buildings, to complete the work. Last April, Barrick turned the restored landmark over to the city, marking the completion of the first phase of the project.
Cabanillas says restoring Vallejo’s house was a way for Barrick to express its support for cultural heritage and recognize the poet’s importance to the country. The project has the added benefit of creating a major tourist attraction for Santiago de Chuco, he says, noting that the company is also helping finance road improvements to facilitate access to and from the Peruvian coast. In addition, the museum will make a literary tour across Peru to places where the poet lived and worked, known as the Route of Vallejo, more attractive to tourists.
The second phase of the project involved developing museum materials, including guides, documentaries, photographs, and activities to exhibit in the 11-room house. “Each room is dedicated to different aspects of Vallejo’s life and creates a welcoming environment for people interested in one of the greatest poets in the world,” says Nadeshna Molina, designer of the museum’s exhibits.
The museum houses pieces from the early 20th century, although original writings from the author will not be on display. Molina explains that many of these pieces are in private collections, although replicas may be made later. She adds that the idea of a museum as a place to store old things is outdated and that she sought to create a place to learn, research and conserve the memory of Vallejo.
Born in Santiago de Chuco in 1892, Vallejo was the youngest of 11 children and studied for a time at the National University of San Marcos. His first publication of collected poems, The Black Heralds, was published in 1919 and examined the everyday life of the lower-middle classes of Peru. Politically, he also called for social reform and was briefly arrested and detained, publishing another set of poems titled Trilce while in prison. In Trilce he created new words and avoided conventional writing style, including punctuation — a characteristic of surrealism, which Vallejo engaged in before the movement began. After his arrest, Vallejo chose to live in Europe writing several works that were published posthumously after 1938.