Mucha Stuff

La Entrada de los santos y Corpus Christi

So, this was a busy week… Kind of. Out story starts on Wednesday with a large protest. In the last couple of week there have been a lot of protests that have shut the streets down. The first was a group of students protesting something about anti-government. They were mostly university students but they were probably about 400 strong. They marched down the main street of Avenida de la Cultura and marched to the Plaza de Armas. Well Wednesday there was another protest but it wasn’t students this time. This time is was people from the communities of Espinar and a few others that were around there. All of these communities are mining communities and recently they have been fighting current mining practices arguing that it has been polluting the rivers, soil, and making community member sick. They hold the mining company Xtracta Tintaya and the government responsible and they want action to be taken on their behalf. The Mayor of Espinar was leading the protest at one of the mining sites and was arrested by the national police.  He is still being held by the national police. The incarceration only added fuel to the inferno and motivated people to move the protest to Cuzco because they were not receiving national attention in Espinar. The protestors have now added the immediate release to their mayor to their growing list of demands. The effects of the protest can still be seen in the Plaza de armas with posters supporting Espinar. Some posters have lines such as “Espinar, tu dolor es nuestro dolor” (Espinar, your pain is our pain) and “¡Basta de Muerte, contaminación, y Saqueo!” (No more death, pollution and pirating/looting). There is a lot of heated emotion about this, in today’s newspaper there were 6 articles about the protest and this topic (2 days after the actual protest and 1 day after one of the largest tourist events in Perú). But how does this relate to me because after all this blog is all about me? Well if you read my research proposal you would know that I am researching health effects of mining and how current mining practices affect the local communities…sound familiar? Espinar…mining community…protesting mining practices…yeah, so I was interested. I was told that the day following the protest the protestors would still be in the Plaza de San Francisco (2 blocks from the Plaza de Armas…Spanish colonists loved their plazas) and I should go interview a few. So, I quick threw together a million questions and my voice recorder and during lunch I headed towards the Plaza de San Francisco. I was super excited to get some firsthand opinions on mining practices in Perú and start on my research. However, when I got to the Plaza there was no one there except a million tourists. Because Today was Wednesday, the day before Corpus Christi. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to interview anyone but I stayed in the plaza to watch “La Entrada de los Santos” (the entrance of the Saints).

The entrance of the saints actually dates back to the Inka Empire when they would parade the Mallqui around the center of the empire (modern day Plaza de Armas). Mallqui or mummies were often revered after death and were thought to still have great influence on the living. People would touch the mallqui for luck and blessing. When the Spanish came, they put an end to this pagan ritual and replaced it with Corpus Christi and the La Entrada de los Santos. During the Entrada, the saints are paraded through the plaza de Armas and come from all of the surrounding communities and people still try to touch the saints for blessing. However, they are not touching the catholic images but rather the Mallquis. When the Spanish outlawed the parading of the dead, the Quechua put the images of the Saints over top of the mummies, thus, creating the illusion that they were honoring the catholic saints. So the following images are of the saints. I also used this time to do some street photography and took a bunch of pictures of random people I thought were interesting.

That night we went out for dinner and as my family says, “dancy, dancy, drinky, drinky.” I had a beer with dinner and water the rest of the night. We went to a bar called Inca Team. It was fun; the smoke makes me sick down here so, I left around 1:30. Apparently, my friend Keely met my host brother at the bar and they kind of hit it off…too bad she leaves tomorrow (Saturday).

The nest day was Corpus Christi. We met outside a bar and sat then went to the plaza to watch the procession after mass. They marched the Eucharist around the plaza in this big silver thing (see picture). Those of you who are better Catholics can probably tell me what it’s called. After the procession Charlotte (Armando’s housemate from France) and I got separated from the group and went up to the Plaza de San Francisco to try some Chiri Uchu. They called it “El festival Gastronómico de Chiriuchu.”Chiriuchu is a tradition dish comprised of many different kinds of food. It is served cold and contains pork sausage, turkey, cuy, roasted corn cornels, seaweed, fish eggs, and a “tortilla.” For those who don’t know a tortilla is kind of like a tortilla española. More like an omelet and cuy is….Guinea pig! Yes, friends I ate guinea pig this week….jealous? should be. It actually wasn’t terrible. It was kind of tough and gammy and not a lot of meat but eatable. I had a midsection which threw me. They prepare the cuy by gutting with a cut down the abdomen and then fill it with herbs. They then roast the hell out of it and serve it cold. I got a section with lots of herbs in it and at first I thought it was the guinea pig’s last meal. Honestly, I tried everything on the place, including the fish eggs. Charlotte and I then wandered back to the plaza de armas to watch the parade of saints…which was very much like the entrada. I left after about 2 hours of saints. It’s a very very slow parade and takes about 5 hours for 15 saints to march around the plaza. I met the group at Quircancha and we hung out for a while. We ate some coconut, chewed some sugar cane, and just relaxed. We then went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant and the food was really good

I then headed home to find that there was a giant party. I asked my host brother about a week ago if they did anything special for Corpus and he told me no, so this was a bit of a surprise to find 40+ people in my house. I didn’t really know what to do so I went to my room to study but I left the door open. I wasn’t really comfortable just going down there and awkwardly hanging out with a bunch of people I didn’t know but apparently my host mom was waiting for me to arrive. She told me the next morning that she was telling everyone that her student would be there “ahorrita” (soonish). She then told me that she told me about the part like 3 weeks ago and for those of you who know me I have a hard time remembering what happened 3 days ago. So, I feel bad that I didn’t go to the party and try cuy with them, I’ll have to make it up somehow.

Today I had 2 exams. The first was a normal Spanish test like we have every Friday. We were tested over the subjunctive mode. I did well so there’s nothing really to say about it. I didn’t really study for it because it was a lot of information that I’ve covered previously. The afternoon test was a little more stressful. It was worth 50% of our overall grade in the ISS course. It was 2 short essay questions. It took me about an hour to finish and I feel that I did well but we’ll see come Monday. I am still waiting for mail to arrive. Kaylee and Lawrence sent me mail but I still haven’t received either. Hopefully, they’ll come soon. This evening we went to McDonalds for dinner because it was the last night in Cusco for the students from New York and they wanted to go…I still feel greasy but oh well. I ate in the plaza with Armando and Keelie. After Heather, Armando, and I walked through the plaza and watched the kids practice typical dances for an upcoming festival. I then went home and cut out newspaper articles about the mines. Tomorrow we go to Machu Picchu and Sunday we are climbing a mountain. So, there shall be more…this is going to be a very long post.

Machu Picchu

This day started very early but totally worth it. It started at 5am with my alarm screaming at me to get up and get ready. I packed my bag with water, a hat, an extra sweatshirt, my camera, and a stuffed dog named Muttsy Fluff (or just Muttsy for short). I went down to breakfast and found some fruit, some bread, tea, and a granola-like bar waiting for me. My host mom asked if I needed anything and I said so no so she said ok I’m going back to bed, see you tomorrow. I didn’t really eat much but I packed the apple, the granola thing, and 2 rolls in my bag. I drank the tea and headed to Emily’s house so we could walk together. We arrived at the school just before 6 and waited for the bus. When it finally arrived we all got on and headed to Oyantayambo to catch a train. Train is the only way to get to Machu Picchu. Oyantayambo is about 2 hours away by bus but only about 30 miles from Cusco. When we arrived in Oyantayambo we still had an hour before the train left. So, we wandered around the little area outside the train station and had a hot breakfast. It was just a fried egg on a role but it was amazing. When it was finally time to board the train we all got our tickets and headed to the platform. While I was waiting for the train I met a woman whose sister works at the artisans’ market by my house. When I approached I asked do you have a sister that works in the market in Cusco. She kind of just looked at me for a minute and said, “Sííííí, por qué? (yeah…why?)” I explained to her that I had met her sister and practically her entire family at the market and they told me that she worked there and to say hi. It was one of the most awkward situations of my life but still kind of cool.

Any ways, we boarded the train and it was really cool. I had never been on a train before in my life. I’ve ridden people movers and metro lines but those aren’t really choo-choos. The seats were group in 4’s facing each other with a table in the middle. I was sitting backwards but had a giant window to look out. The train ride was about 2 hours long and the altitude was clearly lower. We moved from cold Cusco to semi-tropical Machu Picchu. Instead of trying to describe the view I’ll just show you instead.

When we arrived in Machu Picchu, we were actually in a town called Aguas Calientes (Hot Water) aptly named for the natural hot springs that draws in many tourists. From Aguas Calientes we took a 30 minute bus ride up the mountain to the Machu Picchu resort and hotel. There we got the tickets for entrance. Below is a picture of my ticket. Can you see what’s wrong with this photo?

The hike to the ruins is a short one but it is all uphill and in semi-tropical climate. We weren’t use to this. We were used to freezing Cusco. At this point I started getting worried about one of the girls who was really sick. She had had the flu all week and missed class on Friday. She said that she was holding a 104 fever on Friday and still wasn’t feeling well. When we made it to the top of Machu Picchu we were first met by a wall of tourists and then in the back ground the classic view of the ancient capital of the Inkas.

After taking a million and half photos our guide moved us further up the mountain to a better view. It was higher and less tourists to get in our way. At the top of the mountain he showed us the Inca trail and the sun gate. The Inca trail is one of the largest stretches of Inca roads that still exist. During their empire, the Incas built over 25,000 miles of road. The Inca trail enters the lost city through the Sun gate. This sun gate is a natural forming gate that appears between 2 mountains. During sun rise the sun light passes through the sun gate and onto a calendar rock which told the Incas when to plant, when to harvest, and when to hold special tributes to the Earth.  There are many other sun gates in Peru, like the one in Trujillo which was built by the Moche (a pre-Inca civilization). This particular gate is one of the most impressive. On the winter solstice sun passes through a small hole on the gate to what was probably a sacred chamber.

Also at the top of the mountain there was a table either used from sacrifice or mummification. But around the table was a burial site. In this particular site over 150 women were found. We walked around for what seemed like forever. Our guide told us that one of the reasons Machu Picchu is so important is because the Spanish were never there. How do we know the Spanish were never there? Because 70% of Machu Picchu is original. Only time and weather have deteriorated the ruins and they are still uncovering more structures. While we do not know why the Incas left we do know that some of the females found showed signs of European disease which suggests they were refugees after the Spanish began the conquest. Machu Picchu is important for many other reasons as well. It is said that all the energy of the universe passes through Machu Picchu. There is some scientific evidence that supports or coincides with this affirmation. Machu Picchu sits in one of the world’s magnetic pole. The other is in the Himalayas.  As we explored more with our guide he showed us reflecting pools.


These pools reflect the moon light and acted as mirrors that allowed the Quechua to observe the stars and track their movement. We also saw the temple of the condor. It was thought that only the condor could transport souls to the next world. There were bones found in the temple which suggests offerings were made to the condors. After the Temple of the Condor which was more like a severely claustrophobic cave we found the royal tomb. We do not know who was buried here but it is thought that he was of extreme importance because of the precision of the walls and general elegance of the construction. Also on top was a curved wall, like the ones found at Quricancha (the sun temple in Cusco). After we finished exploring the ruins and taking more than a million and half photos we went to lunch. It was another buffet but it was really good. It was the only restaurant in Machu Picchu. I tried ceviche for the first time and it was fantastic. After lunch we headed back down the mountain to explore the town of Machu Picchu (yes, there is a town of the same name 😀 ).

In the town Andi and I didn’t want to walk through the market, we had done a lot of that. So, we wondered through the city just exploring. We got caught by a lady and ended up in here restaurant for happy hour, 4 drinks for S/. 20 (~$7.50). So, we each had two. Andi found a cat and started playing with it….she played with this kitten for about 25-30 mins before coming back to finish her drink. After we left the restaurant we bought some juice and sat by the river to drink our piña (pineapple juice). We ended up getting called down to the river by Will and Andi and he went for a little dip in the Oribamba River. After that, we had to find more juice and some pants for Andi. Andi went into this restaurant to change her pants and when she came out one of the employees asked if she took a shower in the bathroom. She tried to explain that she just changed because she fell into the river but he was still really annoyed. We made up for by playing with this little kid. We blew bubbles and he chased. His name was Pedro Felipe. After we played with the kid it was attempt number one to leave. After sitting on the train for about 30 mins without moving, we asked someone what was going on and they told us that the engine was broken and it was going to take them another 3 hours to fix it. So, some of us got off the train and got dinner and explored a little more. We finally got back on the train and were headed back to Cusco. I couldn’t sleep at all on the train but ended up just passing out on the bus. We got back to Cusco about 12:30. I went home and promptly passed out.


Viva Perú Mountain Take 2

So, on Sunday we decided to climb the Viva Perú mountain again. It took us about 1.5 hours to climb and then we explored. When we were half way up we ran into this ceremony for the saints…I think it was a mountain mass but I’m not really sure. They were not happy that we were there. They gave us all dirty looks and said things in Quechua that we didn’t understand. When we made it to the top we noticed that the big cross was missing and when we looked down the people from the church were marching up the mountain with the cross. So we decided to get out of the way and eat lunch on an adjacent hill. When they made it to the top of the mountain we watched them chant and dance and put the cross back. We ate a lunch of avocado and cheese sandwiches, juice, crackers, and roles. It was really good so we were happy. After lunch some of the people headed back down the mountain but the rest of us pressed on and explored the other mountains. We found some awesome water channels and did some free climbing. It was amazing except for the very angry cactuses and every plant seems to have prickers. But they weren’t all giant barbs but more like burs and some were like fiberglass. I still have prickers in my pants. We must have explored more than 10 miles of mountains before heading back for milkshakes. We went to Jack’s for dinner and milkshakes and coke. It was very good but very filling. I got home from that and once again just passed out. I’ll put some photos in here of the mountain climbing when I get them. Next weekend I’m off to Lake Titicaca so that should be fun. I’ll post again next week…probably from Trujillo or Huamachuco.


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