Our family trip to Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu taught us some fascinating tidbits about the ancient Andean culture, still celebrated and honored today in Peru. This is part 1 of a weekly series that will continue throughout January. Please note that the pictures I post are my own and the information I share comes from our tour guides and from a book I purchased about Machu Picchu.
When Peruvians refer to their Andean culture, they are speaking of those peoples who originated with the Inca empire.
Located in the southeastern region of Peru, in the domain of the Andes mountains, Cusco is well over 3,000 meters above sea level (that’s over 10,000 feet).
Cusco holds significant meaning to the Andean culture because it was once the center of the Inca empire. Today, Cusco is considered to be Peru’s historic capital.
At its peak of success, the Inca empire stretched into Chile and Columbia and other South American countries that border Peru today, but then the Spaniards came along and completely took over. The Spaniards murdered, plundered and destroyed most of what the Incas had built up (except for Machu Picchu which went undiscovered for centuries), all for the love of gold and the pursuit of the Spanish crown. Ironically, these power hungry Spaniards also introduced Christianity to the sun-worshipping Incas, which is why today, Cusco is a vibrant mix of both the Andean and Catholic religions, merged together.
For example, it is customary for each roof top to sport 2 bulls on either side of a Catholic cross. The Andean bulls are a good luck charm.
In the main square of Cusco there stands a towering cathedral which was built on top of what was left of the Wiracocha Inca Palace after the Spaniards plundered it for gold. This took place in the 1530’s.
Inside the cathedral hangs a unique painting of the Last Supper. This replica depicts Christ and His apostles eating cuy, which is a traditional Andean meat that is considered a delicacy. Cuy is guinea pig.
Peruvians raise guinea pigs solely for food and sometimes when you order cuy in restaurants you get to select your guinea pig as if it were a lobster.
I took this picture of Marissa holding a lamb, standing next to a woman in traditional Andean clothing, outside the cathedral. My friendly advice to anyone visiting Cusco, wishing to take a similar picture with their child, is to negotiate the cost of each picture before you snap it. (Or feel generous and remember these people live a hard life.)