The region around Cuzco is a good place to purchase and observe the weaving of traditional Quechua textiles. Small-scale textile weaving is an important source of income for many mountain communities. Numerous weaving cooperatives help native weavers set up production, find markets for their products, and organize displays of their goods. It is not too difficult to find displays of authentic native woven goods at several places in Cuzco and in markets such as the one at Pisac.
In most cases, the weaving process is passed down from generation to generation, and many artisans still weave textiles in the same way their Inca ancestors did a thousand years ago. The Incas wove their textiles from the wool of alpacas, llamas, and vicuñas, as well as from cotton. The finest textiles were woven in convents connected with the Temple of the Sun by virgin girls, called Virgins of the Sun, who were specially trained in the art of weaving.
Nowadays, the designs, colors, and quality of the textiles vary from one region to another, and most Quechua Indians can tell a person's village just by the design of the clothing he wears. Many symbols are portrayed in Quechua textiles that represent the Quechua relationship with the physical and spiritual world. The vibrant colors are derived from from natural dyes, and the finest cloth is still woven from alpaca, llama, and vicuña wool.
The large tourism industry in Peru provides a ready market for Quechua textiles, and many tourists who do a lot of shopping consider a fine piece of native clothing among their best buys.
The Quechua Indians are the direct descendants of the Incas, and inhabit the high Andean regions of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. There are about 7,500,000 Quechua Indians that live in those three countries, and in Peru they make up about one-third of the country's population.
Outsiders generally call their language Quechua, but the Quechua Indian term for their language is Runa Simi, meaning "Language of the People." In Peru, about 8,000,000 people (many of whom are non-Quechua Indians) speak Quechua, and it is one of the country's two official languages, along with Spanish. Quechua words that have made it to English include puma, condor, llama, and cocoa.
Most Quechua Indians rely on subsistence agriculture, growing mainly potatoes and corn in the poor soil of the high Andes. They are also nomadic herdsmen, tending herds of llamas on the steep slopes of the mountains. Some live in stone houses that have thatched roofs and were constructed during Inca times. However, most live in structures made of adobe or concrete cinder blocks, and tiles have replaced the traditional thatch.
In 1572, the Spanish prohibited the wearing of native Inca tunics and wrap-around dresses. Nowadays, though, many of the Quechua Indians wear traditional costumes as part of their heritage. The costumes are the normal mode of dress and are not worn for tourists. However, in areas with a lot of tourists, some of the Quechua Indians will let visitors photograph them, but permission should be asked first, and then a tip for posing should be offered.
Ollantaytambo is a village that was founded by the Incas in the fifteenth century. Many of the thatch-roofed houses they built then remain relatively unchanged, and are still occupied, making them the oldest continuously occupied houses in South America. Many of these houses lack basic necessities such as electricity, water, and heat. Each house looks out onto a courtyard, or cancha, rather than directly onto a street. Anyone entering a house, therefore, first has to enter the cancha from the street.
During Inca times, the quality of the thatch on the roof of a house indicated the importance or rank of the person who lived in that house. Common people had ordinary thatch of course grass, but the thatch of a person of high rank was of braided fine grass. No matter the rank of the inhabitant, however, all of the houses were very simple and basic. None of the houses had any windows but this helped retain warmth in winter. The Incas also had very little furnishings. Most Incas spent most of their lives outdoors and had little use for furniture, other than necessities such as beds.
The yellow plastic flag on a pole indicates that homemade chicha is sold there. Chicha is an alcoholic, beer-like drink that is brewed in areas of Central and South America. Chicha is generally homemade and brewed with corn, but in the Andes it can be made with any type of grain or fruit.
In Peru, chicha has been brewed for thousands of years and was used by the Incas for ritual purposes and drunk in vast quantities during religious festivals. Throughout Central and South America, the use of traditionally prepared chicha has been decreasing, but it is still common in the Andean regions of Peru.
Chicha is prepared by germinating the corn, extracting malt sugars, boiling the wort (the liquid extracted from the mashing process during brewing), and fermenting the liquid in large earthenware vats for several days.
I was warned not to try chicha, because it can cause stomach problems in those not accustomed to it.
My cousin and I went to Peru to do some volunteer work. Our experience shifted from volunteering to be the primary reason to taking spanish lessons and meeting locals, partying with them and making many friends from around the world. MachuPiccu school was the best! All the teachers were great we stayed with the family that owned the school, volunteering opportunities were set up for us. No need to spend crazy $$ on organizations like cross cultural etc.
Rather than buying guidebooks, I usually go for literature. Fiction and travelogues set in foreign locations impart a sense of place, and they can give us a good look at life and culture.
These are the books I read before my trip to Peru:
The Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming. 1970. (500 pages of detailed history, and another 100 pages of references, etc.) Includes genealogy of the Inkas and Spaniards.
Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa. 1993. (Mystery novel - Set in the1980s during the Shining Path movement.)
The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. 1927. (Set in Lima in early 1800s.)
Deep Rivers by Jose Maria Arguedas. 1960s (translated 1978) 20th Century setting –Indian and Spanish cultures seen through the eyes of a teenage boy.
Cut Stones and Crossroads, A Journey in the Two Worlds of Peru, by Ronald Wright. 1984. Travelogue—Contains a lot of history and archaeology. (Note: this author also wrote Stolen Continents.)
As you travel around the south of Peru, you will often see pairs of clay bulls, or toritos, on the roof tops of houses, often accompanied by a cross and a a bunch of flowers. They are placed there as they are considered to be lucky symbols which will bring prosperity and fertility to the household.
Peruvians utilise their indigenous animals in both their cuisine and their traditional medicine. While I was there, I ate roast guinea pig and saw dried llama foetuses on sale, but didn't try them.
In countryside, many places they put roosters fighting. It is not difficult, because roosters are basically angry against other roosters. Men are betting and enjoying many weekends with that pleasure.
Here's another procession in Pisac... for Virgen del Carmen. They were slightly distracted by a fire up on a tree and the parade master was having a hard time getting them to play the music properly...
You do not really need to time your trip coz there seemed to be some festivities or parades going on around Peru all the time. I enjoyed myself observing their procession & stuff. Here's one celebrating San Pedro y San Pablo in Lima on the day I arrived.
I thought it was funny that Adrianna wanted to bring some Inka Cola in her suit case when we were going back home. I told her she was crazy. She didnt need to do that because they sold Inka Cola back home aready.
I have always drank Inka Cola but this was Adriannas first time and she loved it. Everywhere we went we were told that this was Peru's national drink. It tastes like a cactus cooler, or bubble gum soda or something. It pretty good.
The famour Pisco Sour.... I didnt even try this drink until our last day in Peru right before going home. I heard alot about this drink and I knew I had to try it. I even brought some Pisco home with me.
I wasnt too impressed with it to tell you the truth. It tasted alot like a margarita but much more sour.
Kancha is pretty good. Its a roasted corn. In Ecuardor its called tostado.
That is the family I was staying with in Peru.We communicated mostly through body language. I could not speak Spanish, they did not know English. But I could feel sympathy as well as support and understanding. Great people, I should say!
It was the first thought that stroke me when I sow the houses in Cusco. After I have done many trips around prosper Europe and rich Canada, I didn’t expect to see such a poor country. Half finished houses, awful leaving conditions-cold water or no water at all after 12 in the afternoon, no TV, no washing machines, 4 persons living in one small room-, dirty from the gas air in the city-streets are filled with the old cars.
We did not stay here, but it was pointed out to us as the hotel used for some of the VIPs that came...more
We didnt really think of coming here until we started mapping out a plan of our independant walking...more
Av. Hermanos Ayar Mz 1 L-3, Aguas Calientes, Sacred Valley, Peru
Good for: Business
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