Take a look around Oxapampa


The term _jungle_ often sparks imagery of immense green foliage inhabited by various species of exotic animals. Located in the department of Pasco, the town of Oxapampa is tucked in a valley of the “eyebrow of the jungle.” Stemming from the Quechua terms “ocsha” and “pampa,” Oxapampa is a lush city that lives up to its name which, when translated, can be understood as “grassland.”

Although the naturalistic qualities are a large part of what draws tourism, it must not be forgotten that for some lucky people this section of Peru is called home. And just as diverse as the flora and fauna, so too is the history, especially that of Oxapampa. Although comparatively quaint in size to the country’s capital, Oxapampa is filled with interesting cultural aspects due to its mix of Peruvian, German, and Austrian influences.

_(Photo: Erick Andía/Peru this Week)_

Seemingly hidden from settlers in central Peru, the Oxapampa area was originally populated with native _Yáneshas_ in the west and _Asháninkas_ in the east. These groups took influence from the Inca culture without having been actually conquered by them- a remarkable feat in itself. During colonial times Spaniards and migrants from the highlands eventually inhabited the area. Adding even more ingredients to its multicultural pot, European settlers, of mainly Austrian-German descent, arrived and soon after founded the city on August 30th, 1891. Today it is the capital of the province of the same name.

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As with most Latin American cities, Oxapampa has a main square, _Principal Plaza,_ with a Spanish-influenced lay out of pathways that stem from each side and intersect in the middle. Surrounded by an impressive array of flowering trees, this point of intersection boasts an obelisk, shining a bright white under the sun. Erected in 1959, this monument is in tribute to the progress made by the founding settlers. Perhaps not the original intention, the pathways that derive from various directions and eventually meet seem to represent the city’s history as well; one culminated of the many hands and varying cultures that make it what it is today. At present, this central area is used by families to take a stroll on lazy afternoons as well as hosting fairs and parades that often take place on weekends and holidays.

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Upon one of the corners of the main plaza rests the striking architecture of the town’s church, _Santa Rosa_. Inside the church is a replica of the Lord of Miracles and images of the Virgin of Guadalupe and of San Martín de Porres. Also inside, or so is the word (or folklore) of the town, is the devil. It is believed by some that both God and the devil inhabit this church, causing the wood used to be termed _“Diablo Fuerte, _ or devil strong. Whether taken with humor or perhaps with caution, allow the tale to tempt you to glimpse inside the church to view not only religious relics and decor but to admire its construction as well.

_(Photo: Erick Andía/Peru this Week)_

Constructed in 1940, the wood paneling, so characteristic of this town and its European influence, has been well preserved despite the church remaining in use to this day. The rectangular shape and natural exterior of the Santa Rosa makes it stand out among the churches commonly found in Peru.

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Alongside the church is the town’s firehouse as well as the _Paseo Los Colonos_, a long walkway lined with benches. This area is another tribute to the founding settlers and the peaked-roof terrace sitting at the end is yet again a hint of the diversity that culminates in this town.

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There are in fact tours available for those interested in seeing more homes and buildings around the city of Oxapampa and the neighboring town of Chontabamba. The A-frame shape and visible wood sidings are so representative of Austrian and German culture that at times it can be a bit disorienting for someone arriving to Peru with a predisposition of what the jungle here looks like.

_(Photo: Erick Andía/Peru this Week)_

Appearing as though it were part school, part farmhouse, the town’s Social Club sits on another side of the plaza, taking up nearly an entire block. At first glance the rooftop offers a startling skyline as the structure boasts both a rounded dome shape as well as a peaked rooftop. These shapes, sitting side-by-side, are constructed out of the signature honey-brown wood. The bottom half of this building is painted in the city’s colors (green and white), lending it to appear as if school children should be skipping out of its doors at any moment. The structure is in fact used for such gaiety as it plays host to various festivities throughout the year, carrying on the tradition imposed upon it by settlers. In fact today it is home to the local non-profit business, Centro Social Oxapampa. Founded in 1912, the business aims to “reunite families of Oxapampa with different activities and entertainment.”

_(Photo: Erick Andía/Peru this Week)_

Described by the city’s municipality as “a unique place in the heart of the jungle,” Oxapampa surely wins over the hearts of those that take a road less traveled to visit it. Approximately 10 hours by bus, the city is an escape for urban dwellers as upon arrival one is encompassed not by smog but trees and blue sky. The city is visibly proud of its history and the diverse influence that has made the city what it is today: colorful, interesting, and welcoming to all visitors. As a German/Austrian/Peruvian town, Oxapampa has an unusual history. It’s also a pretty spectacularly beautiful place



Agnes Rivera

A U.S. native plucked from the green surroundings of her home state of Oregon, Agnes Rivera has been living in Lima, Peru, fulfilling various occupations such as teaching, translating, and journalism. While indoors she uses her time creatively to build "recycled art" and read fiction, she is quick to use any excuse to be outdoors, balancing her inner home-body lifestyle with an adventurous spirit to explore all that Peru has to offer.