Kendallsuyo Book Seeks to Spotlight Miami's Overlooked Andean Roots

The "Lady of Coracora" Celebration, a traditional festivity that originated in Ayacucho (Southern Andes).
The "Lady of Coracora" Celebration, a traditional festivity that originated in Ayacucho (Southern Andes).
Courtesy Américo Mendoza-Mori

In the wake of the Pamela Druckerman fiasco, it's pretty clear that lots of folks (even former residents) still harbor stereotypes about Miami.

University of Miami Ph.D. candidate Americo Mendoza-Mori thinks that even the city's Latin culture tends to overlook crucial aspects of its own identity. One aspect includes the unique segment of immigrants who originated from Peru and the Andes, eventually forming the Kendallsuyo settlement in Southwest Miami.

To get the word out, he's launched a Kickstarter to support his book project -- a tome focused on the fascinating stories of this singular group and how they've helped shape Miami as a whole.

See also: Miami Book Fair: Daniel Alarcón Recounts His Drive Into the Dark Heart of Peru's Drugland

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First and foremost, the name Kendallsuyo stems from Kendall (the first important Peruvian settlement in Miami) and the suffix "-suyo," coming from the official name of the ancient Inca Empire (Tahuantinsuyo, "the four-regions state" in Quechua).

When Mendoza-Mori first came to Miami, he worked as a waiter in a Peruvian restaurant and gained more insight into the culture.

"The book tries to come from a human approach," he says, rather than coming across as overly academic. "There's an important Andean community in Miami and we don't really know about it. Living in Miami, when people think about Peruvians they think about the food, the ceviche -- that's the final product. What about the people?"

The book will include individuals' stories and photos, as well as collective stories about the culture's local influence. There's a church in Allapattah, for instance, that was built to look like a colonial Andean church, and it contains a wealth of 17th century paintings and sculpture -- a "church-museum," as Mendoza-Mori calls it.

Yawar Chicchi, scissors dancers based in Miami.
Yawar Chicchi, scissors dancers based in Miami.
Courtesy Americo Mendoza-Mori

Other examples of the culture in Miami include the local presence of traditional scissor dancers, known for complex, ritualistic, spiritually significant performances; Quechua speakers, trying to keep their endangered language alive; and a Bolivian woman who created an Andean dance school so her children could remain close to their roots.

"It's stories about people, but at the same time trying to explain how Andean culture -- Peruvians, Bolivians, Ecuadorians -- have been shaping the city through their food, their dances, the architecture, in the case of the Andean church, and how that contributes to today's life."

If funded, Mendoza-Mori hopes to have the book completed by next summer.

You can learn more about Kendallsuyo (and donate) via Kickstarter. The campaign runs through September 6, and he's looking to raise $3,500.

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