Peru will be the inspiration for my first artwork series on places I’ve called home. You can find my Peru Artwork here. I spent the first month living in Cuzco. You will soon notice I have an obsession for llamas and alpacas. I ultimately found myself settled in for the longer portion of my time in the dry coastal region of the North West. My mind was set on buying a surf board and catching some waves in and around Chicama (Longest lefts in the world!!!). But for now let’s start where my journey began. Cuzco.
Here is a peek at some of my favorite scenes in Cuzco.
The ancient city (once the capital of the huge Incan Empire) is settled high up in the Andes at 3,399 meters. It’s breath taking! (hehe) Most people need time to adjust to the high elevation. One common remedy is chewing on coca leaves or drinking coca tea. Coca tea is fantastic for headaches and getting your caffeine fix.
El Mercado San Pedro is one of my favorite places to go in Cuzco. You can buy fresh fruit juice, souvenirs, flowers, animal snouts (WHAT ARE THOSE?!), fresh meat, and produce. If you’re like me and don’t pack warm clothes, you can do what I did and just buy alpaca everything! Alpaca socks, alpaca sweater, alpaca hat, alpaca blanket, alpaca scarf, stuffed animal alpaca–just because it’s adorable. That should keep you warm.
Plaza del Armas
In addition to the inevitable existence of McDonalds, KFC, and Starbucks in the main square you can also find great architectural beauty. The plaza is surrounded by Spanish Colonial arcades. Here you will find the impressive Cathedral as well as the highly ornate church of La Compania de Jesus. Depending on the day of the week, the Cathedral holds Mass in English, Spanish, or Quechua!
There is a statue of Tupac Amaru in the center of the plaza. He was the leader of the indigenous resistance to the Spanish conquistadors. He died brutally at the hands of the Spaniards. They forced him to watch the murder of his family before tying him to four horse drawn carriages and quartering him in the plaza.
From the Plaza, I enjoyed walking the steep uphill climb to the art district of San Blass. There are very good restaurants and bars up there. On the way up you can also see the perfection that only Incas can demonstrate with their ancient stone walls. More on this later.
No strollers here! Children are carried liked the one pictured above. This is called Aguayo. The colorful woven clothe is rectangular and is tied in a knot. It is not singularly used for carrying children. It is also used to carry bundles on the back.
Side note….Peruvian women are some of the strongest people I’ve ever met.
Dying. These are the chance encounters I live for. I don’t give a damn about celebrities. Cute animals however…
Another thing to love about Cuzco, or Peru, or South America in general…dogs EVERYWHERE. You will see what look like stray dogs wearing sweaters wandering around. I thought the stray dogs with sweaters were peculiar until someone explained it to me. During the day dog owners let their dogs roam the city. The dogs return to their homes in the evening for dinner. Then it’s time for work. Their job is to perform the task of security for their families at night.
One of my favorite photos taken in Peru. If you have zoom, please, do notice the ridiculous face of the alpaca photo bombing in the background. I took this photo at Saqsaywaman, a site with ruins that overlooks the city of Cuzco. I sat down in this grassy field and a herd of alpacas and llamas were grazing peacefully around me. You can see this little baby was curious about me.
You may wonder what the difference is between a llama and an alpaca. I would summarize it this way: An alpaca looks like a smaller, smooshed-faced, hippy llama with dreads. Not all alpacas have dreads but most of the alpacas I saw in Peru did. Alpacas have shorter ears. They are more timid than llamas and do well in a herd, while llamas tend to be more independent. Alpacas are less likely to spit on you. 🙂
Templo de la Luna (Laq’o) — Nice little hike up from the Plaza del Armas. It’s quiet here. You can get away from the crowds and constant noise of the combis shouting everywhere at people to get on or off. This is a site with ruins of the Incan Moon Temple.
Native Quechua people in traditional dress. This is how they actually dress and not just for tourists. Their clothing has beautifully intricate and colorful designs. The symbols and colors represent economic status and marital status among many things. Symbols in the woven designs tell stories also. There is a strong oral tradition in the Quechua culture and weaving helps them memorialize their history.
Remember the story of Tupac Amaru’s brutal death by quartering? Check this out.
Combis Combis Combis…This is the way Cusquenos travel. Nothing like cramming into a van with strangers, especially if it’s a sunny, warm day and the windows are stuck shut. Most public vehicles are decrepit but you can be sure the stereo works well enough to entertain all people in the vehicle and pedestrians in the street, aaaaand people in the surrounding houses and businesses. This is probably to cover up the noise of incessant honking and shouting of other drivers. Just kidding, it’s not so bad. I used this mode of transportation daily. It costs about .70 soles (20 cents). You do have to kind of climb over people but 20 cents… just 20 cents.
I drank A LOT of tea in Peru. Particularly Coca Tea and Manzanilla (Chamomile). Peruvians, at least in the mountain areas of Peru, tend to think drinking anything but hot drinks will make you sick. They also use tea to remedy all sorts of ailments. The most famous one is Coca Tea for altitude sickness and headaches. I happened to get sick often enough to complete my education on tea and its uses. My favorites are mint tea (for soothing the stomach) and oregano tea (also good for nausea and upset stomach).
Peruvian homes are rarely quiet. Either the television will be on or music will be playing. Soap operas are very popular but I never watched one. Every time I was around a tv, one show in particular always seemed to be on. ESTO ES GUERRA. There are two teams of half dressed, muscular men and women, who compete in obstacle courses. There is ALWAYS drama, romantic or otherwise.
This concludes my observations for Cuzco and orientation to some aspects of Peruvian culture. I will follow up with more about Peru in my next blog. Adios Cuzco……
If you’re interested in studying Spanish or volunteering, check out Maximo Nivel. They will tailor classes to fit your needs and the teachers are great. They will even help you find a place to live.
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