“Museums are as necessary for countries as schools and hospitals… They also heal, not bodies, but minds of darkness that is ignorance, prejudice, superstition and all the defects that isolate human beings from one, and fester them and push to kill themselves. Museums.. They sharp (shape) the sensibility, stimulate the imagination, refine the sentiments, and wake up in people the critical and self-critical spirit. Progress does not only mean many schools, hospitals and roads. Also, and maybe, above all, the wisdom that makes us capable of differentiating the ugly from the beautiful, the intelligent from the stupid, the good from the bad and the tolerable of the intolerable, that we culture.”
Mario Vargas Llosa – Peruvian, Nobel Prize in Literature 2010
Dec 12 - Mon. (cont'd) We return to spend several days in Cusco before starting our Inca Trail hike
into Machu Picchu. We stop for a visit to
the town’s permanent market before calling it a day.
Dec 13 -Tues. Cusco is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1983, an archeological capital of the Americas and the oldest continuously inhabited city on the continent. As the center of the Inca empire is was referred to as the “belly button of the world”. The narrow winding streets are lined with inca-build stone walls with sounds of Quechua-spoken language resonating from conversations of women wearing colorful layered skirts, tall bowler type hats topping long black braids, and brilliantly colored blankets wrapped over their shoulders.
A little history: Legend has it that the children of the Sun and Moon set out to find a place to establish their kingdom. Manco Capac, son, thrust his staff in the valley of the Rio Huantanay until it vanished which was a sign that this was to be the Inca capital. Although the land was occupied in the 8th and 9th Century, it was under the Inca control that Cusco reached its military, religious and political height. It is recorded that 13 emperors ruled over the valley from the 12th to 15th century. In a mere century, the Inca Empire was built and peaked in 1493. Pachacutes, 9th emperior, was responsible for Cusco’s development and laid it out in the shape of a puma. It was 1533 when the Spanish arrived, crushed the Incas, founded their own city and built on top of the Inca structures with their colonial mansions. Cusco continued to blend into a mestizo community until the discovery of Machu Picchu made the outside world aware of its many sights and historical references.
So shifting back to Inca time, we visit archeological sites located along the
road leading to Pisaq. The first is Tambomachay in which it is believed to be
used as a place for worshiping the Inca water deity. We walk to Puca Pucara, the
red fort, used as rest stop rather than a military site. Quenko or the labyrinth
was a temple used for ceremonies including sacrifices and honoring the sun, moon
or stars. The final site is Sacsayhuman built by the son of Pachacutes, Tubac ,
and said to be the head of the puma. The rocks were quarried from a distant
mountain and moved to the site, some pieces cut at the quarry and others
in-situ. The granite ramparts are about 985 ft with some stones as high at 17
feet, weighing 350 tons. The alignment and fitting of the stones left little
room for a knife to fit in between the seams. The large field in front of the
walls was probably used for religious ceremonies and military events.
We return to town to visit the city center and several of the religious
structures. Cusco has undergone 2 major earthquakes (1650 and 1950) both of
which served to destroy much of the Spanish structures yet preserved much of the
Inca stonework. Around the Plaza de Armas originally used for ceremonial and
military events, is located The Cathedral. It was started in 1560 and completed
100 years later and was built on top of the palace of the 8th emperor using
granite from Sacsayhuamain. The facade is Renaissance with a lavish Baroque
interior. Ancillary chapels flank each side: the left is El Triunfo, on top of
an Inca armory symbolizing Spain’s dominance. Gold and silver are prominent
through out the structure and there are over 400 Cusco School paintings. One
painting by Marcos Zapata is of the last supper. However, the artist depicted
local foods (guinea pig, corn beer (chicha), fruits and vegetables) for the
final meal. Judas is seated at the table and it is thought that he is the face
of the painter who was not allowed to sign the painting.
After lunch, we visit the Santo Domingo Church built over the once important Inca Temple Koricancha, Temple of the Sun. The stone work is the finest seen to date. The exterior combines Inca walls with the newer church structure.
At this point we make our way back to the hotel and bid good-bye to our guide. Dinner at Map, a glass box situated in the courtyard of the Pre-Columbian Art Museum.
Dec 14 – Wed. A day on our own in Cusco. We started our morning by
visiting the Iglesia de la Compania on the Plaza de Armas. Constructed in 1571
on the site of the palace of the 11th Inca emperor, it was rebuilt after the
1650 earthquake. It is a Colonial Baroque style with a carved stone facade and a
69-ft carved cedar alter covered in gold leaf. A number of Cusco School
paintings reside in the church. At this juncture, we have seen a number of
religious Cusco School style paintings and they reflect a similarity in subject,
style and presentation.
After enjoying some Peruvian coffee sitting on a balcony overlooking the
Plaza, we resume our explorations by visiting the Contemporary Art Museum, the
Popular Art Museum and the Museo de Historia Regional (former home of the 16th
C. historian, Garcilaso de la Vega. We broke down for several retail experiences
in anticipation of our hike: wet and cold.
Food: a few words about the Peruvian gastronomical experience. It has been excellent. The local delicacy is guinea pig (cuy) and we have had an opportunity to enjoy it. Besides the 3,000 types of potatoes, Peruvians cook with flava beans, quinoa, fresh vegetables (asparagus, squash, beets), tropical fruits and lots of chilis. There is coca tea brewed from coca leaves and home brewed chicha (corn beer) along with other native beers brewed locally in Cusco. The traditional dishes have benefited from Spanish, Andean and African influence.
Dinner is at Cicciolina – great
Hike to Machu Picchu
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