Bridge made of string: Peruvians weave 500-year-old Incan crossing back into place

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

The Q’eswachaka bridge has been used for over 500 years to connect communities divided by the river. But during the Covid pandemic it fell into disrepair and collapsed in March.

Members of the affected communities, such as the Huinchiri, decided to rebuild the 30-meter (98.43 ft) long bridge in the traditional Incan style: by weaving it.

Members of the Huinchiri community rebuild the Qeswachaka bridge in Canas province, Peru. The bridge spans the Apurimac river. Photograph: Cusco Regional Government/Reuters

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

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

“But now 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.”

Members of the Huinchiri community use traditional weaving techniques to rebuilt the hanging bridge in Canas, Peru, 13 June 2021. Photograph: Cusco Regional Government/Reuters

In 2013, Unesco recognised the skills and traditions associated to the reconstruction of the Q’eswachaka bridge as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Members of the Huinchiri community rebuild the Qeswachaka bridge using traditional weaving techniques in Canas province. Photograph: Cusco Regional Government/Reuters

“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,” added Benavente.

“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.”

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