Solanum Traditio , project.
With the collaboration of Lizet Díaz Machuca, Marco Chevarría, Ronald Romero, Tania Castro, Luis Justino Lizárraga, Daniel Huamán Masi.
  Cusco — Lima — Vienna, 2015 - 2016

Santisteban. Arte de performance en América Latina y Sudamérica. Arte de acción y performance en Latinoamérica, Sudamérica, Perú, Lima. Arte contemporáneo latinoamericano y peruano. Arte latinoamericano y peruano en espacio público.

Photo © Ing. Luis F Lizárraga. Regional Center for Research on Andean Biodiversity. National University San Antonio Abad of Cusco.




The potato is an omnipresent food in the world thanks to the agricultural technology that emerged in the territories of present-day Latin America independently and approximately simultaneously with the agriculture of the Ancient Near East. It is a tuber, a thick stem that accumulates nutrients: a single medium potato provides a person's daily needs with 8% fiber (like 6 plums), 63% vitamin C (3 pears), 17% of vitamin B1 (a cup of noodles), 13% of B3 (340 grams of pumpkin), 31% of B6 (340 grams of rice), 5% of protein (½ cup of milk), 38% of potassium ( two bananas), 17% phosphorus (3 strips of bacon), 13% iron (100 grams of spinach) and 2% ß-carotene (¼ orange). But this nutritional wonder is not entirely natural: it is a modified stem, a wild species made cultigen generated by selection and domestication, it is a technical and technological product.


American cultigens originate 10,000 to 14,000 years ago, during the warming that followed the last Wisconsin Ice Age. Among the primitive cultigens of America that survive we have the pumpkins, beans and corn of Mesoamerica, the cassava of the Brazilian Amazon and also the potato. They were created from inedible wild ancestors 7,000 to 12,500 years ago, that is between 1,000 and 6,500 years before the entry of agriculture from Asia and Africa to gathering and hunting Europe.


There are archaeological remains of 12,500-year-old cultigenic potato at the Monte Verde site (present-day Chile), molecular evidence that the oldest surviving cultivated potato (6,000 to 10,000 years), Solanum tuberosum stenotomum, was produced from wild potatoes from north of Lake Titicaca (present-day Peru), and archaeological evidence that it would have been developed by the Viscachani culture settled south of Lake Titicaca (present-day Bolivia) 12,000 years ago. This potato was diversified and intensified in production thanks to the technology of terraces (terraces in mountains) introduced in the Central Andes by the Huarpa culture of the Ayacucho region (Peru) 2,200 years ago. First the Tiwanaku Wari empire (1,300 years ago), heir to the Huarpa techniques, and later the Tawantinsuyo empire (577 years ago), developer of its own engineering, led the domestication, production, diversification and territorial and climatic adaptation of the potato to the entire Andean territory from Colombia to Argentina, making the southern Peruvian Andean area the one with the highest concentration of varieties to date: in Cusco there are 3,049 ancestral native varieties and six  modern varieties monitored and investigated by the Regional Research Center for Andean Biodiversity of the San Antonio Abad National University of Cusco.


This process has woven a complex network of heritages: genetic studies indicate that St stenotomum potatoes were derived by hybridization in Solanum ajanhuiri, a sweet potato from frozen areas in Peru and Bolivia, and that they were transformed - by adaptation to different climates, sexual hybridization and cloning. by selection— in tall potatoes adapted to short days Solanum tuberosum phureja (Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia) and Solanum tuberosum andigena (mainly Peru and Bolivia). Likewise, genetic studies indicate that St andigena in turn gave rise -by hybridization- to the bitter potatoes of extreme height Solanum curtilobum that grow in Peru and Bolivia, and to the potatoes adapted to long days Solanum tuberosum chilotanum from lowlands in Chile (also called Solanum tuberosum tuberosum).


Colonialist Europe began to cultivate the potato from St Andigena in the second half of the 16th century (the Canary Islands in 1567 and Seville in 1573). The European plague of Phytophthora infestans in the 1840s extinguished or almost extinguished St andigena, with the potato re-emerging due to the cultivation of St chilotanum, more resistant and better adapted to European days, as well as possibly due to the presence of neo-tuberosum ( adaptations of St andigena). From St chilotanum (and possibly in part neo-tuberosum) South American all European varieties and from the rest of the planet arose, however in general St phureja, St andigena and St chilotanum are currently the main genetic sources for the improvement of potatoes in the world.


Millennial selection in the late Pleistocene to the south of the South American subcontinent, high plateau genetic contribution and Andean technologies producing adaptations to different lands, heights and climates; high altitude potatoes and short days turned into plain potatoes and long days; potatoes for the world. The potato presents a history of non-Western globalization of knowledge and technology. It is, rather than a natural resource for food, a forward tradition: traditio (Lat.) Means transmission from the past and into the future, and transmission between peers; inheritance, the enriching essence of all migration. More important than knowing its center of origin is to understand that it is a metaphor for intercultural solidarity in the world, and a reason for admiration and respect for the ancient indigenous peoples and their current descendants, peasant or urban, wherever they live.



Emilio Santisteban

Emilio Santisteban

Sources consulted:


Engineer, Daniel Huamán Masi. Researcher at the Regional Research Center for Andean Biodiversity CRIBA, Master in genetic improvement of plants from the National Agrarian University. Interview, Kayra, Cusco, July 30, 2015.


Engineer, Luis Justino Lizárraga Valencia. Director of CRIBA, San Antonio Abad National University of Cusco. Interview, Kayra, Cusco, July 30, 2015.


Asensio, R. and Cavero Castillo, M. The Potato Park of Cusco. Keys and dilemmas for scaling up rural innovations in the Andes (1998-2011). Institute of Peruvian Studies, Lima, 2012.


Bonifacio, A .; Ramos, P .; Alcon, M .; Gabriel, J. «Solanum x curtilobum Juz. et Buk .: Bitter potato cultivated with potential for genetic improvement ». In Latin American Potato Magazine. Vol. 17. 2013.


National Institute of Health, National Center for Food and Nutrition. Peruvian Food Composition Tables. Ministry of Health of Peru. 2009.


Morales Garzón, F. «Pre-Columbian societies associated with the domestication and cultivation of the potato (Solanum tuberosum) in South America». In Latin American Potato Magazine. 2007.


Rodríguez, LE «Theories on the taxonomic classification of cultivated potatoes (Solanum L. sect. Petota Dumort.). A review". In Colombian Agronomy, n ° 27. National University of Colombia, Bogotá. 2009.


Rodríguez, LE «Origin and evolution of the cultivated potato. A review". In Colombian Agronomy, n ° 28. National University of Colombia, Bogotá. 2010.


Vargas C, R .; Santos Rojas, J .; Orena A, S .; Kalazich B, J .; Rodríguez G, F .; Muñoz D, M. «Native Potatoes of Chile: The Future Under Our Feet». In Tierra Adentro Magazine. Institute of Agricultural Research of Chile. 2015.

Emilio Santisteban , interdisciplinary performance artist. Peru.  Contact us .

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