Efforts to shape more sustainable and just land and water management practices are increasingly turning to the past for inspiration. However, what the past looked like exactly and what can be learned from it and applied to present-day challenges is not straightforward. Peru is one of those places where reviving ancestral land and water management practices and knowledge has become popular. This article starts with a project that aimed to recuperate ancestral water infiltration structures in the Peruvian highlands. Drawing on interviews conducted shortly after the project’s implementation, the author analyses how history and “the past” are imagined differently by various actors, according to their current worldviews, interests and values. The author unpacks the consequences of these diverse pasts for present-day relations and project implementation, calling attention to the importance of making explicit the “politics of the past,” including how the past is portrayed and by whom, and which past is to be recuperated or revalorized.