Monday, June 27, 2011

Peru 2011

I should reflect a bit on the great trip that Iowa Guru, One Hungary Panda, and I had to Peru. (Africa Girl was, of course, in Africa, Benin to be exact, alas.) I will share some random thoughts about the trip & my experience there. Of course, for a great photo tour, see One Hungary Panda’s photos.

For a guy from the flat Midwest, the Andes provide a starkly contrasting, three-dimensional world. They look not only front and back, right and left, but by necessity, up and down. Distance and perspectives really vary from our daily experience here on the Midwest. Distances, for instance, mean little, given the (literal) ups and downs and arounds of travel. Sometimes I felt almost claustrophobic with sheer mountainsides towering above me.

Machu Pichu is all that it’s cracked up to be. In the train from Cuzco that follows the river valley (a tributary of the Amazon), one suddenly realizes that you’ve traveled low enough to enter the jungle. Mountainsides once brown are now green and marked by trees. When one arrives at the heights of Machu Pichu you can see this verdant (even in winter) environment, steep and lush. Machu Pichu itself is a testament to engineering. It stands on this mountaintop (and side) as it has for about 600 years. I quickly learned that if an earthquake were to strike, I’d want to be in some Incan (popular, not accurate name for the civilization) ruins. If you have the chance, visit.

The people of Cuzco love to dance. You see many persons who are obviously from pretty pure indigenous genetic stock, as well as many of mixed ancestry. All seem to love to dance, pre-schoolers to college kids. While we were in Cuzco there seemed to be a dance festival about every day circling the square. Just for the tourists? I don’t think so. This seems to be a genuine vehicle of popular solidarity.

How the present relates the past always fascinates me. There, one sees a lot of reference to the Incan history (okay, Tahuantinsuyo history). The Spaniards, real bastards as far as I can tell, or at least the initial wave, really attempted to stomp on the native culture, but this always proves difficult, perhaps always impossible. Even in colonial churches one sees how Incan motifs sneak into the Christianity grafted over it (literally often, as churches often have Incan ruins for foundations). For instance, statues of the Virgin have her clothed the shape of a mountain. I thought it merely to cover some unseemly weight gain, but no, it was because mountains were sacred to the Incans. Also, in paintings of the Last Supper, we see Jesus and the disciples about the enjoy the last supper with cuy (guinea pig) as the main course. Christianity, like almost every religion, is extremely syncretistic.

Well, perhaps more later. If you have the chance, I highly recommend Peru for a trip. BTW, the people were very friendly, and multi-lingual (1HP was virtually challenged to a linguistic duel!).

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