Sunday, July 9 _ I arrived in Cusco at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 9th. No time difference. Mrs. Consuelo Lazares Zamalloa (my host family) was there to pick me up (car problems on our way home). Regardless, we made it home. Consuelo showed me my room (on the third floor of the house). I also met Lazares (husband), and youngest daughter Arantza. Took a nap because I was extremely tired. Woke up at 12:30 p.m., and took a shower (no hot water) [We take everything for granted in the States]. Consuelo made lunch: chuletas con arroz, choclo, ají, y ensalada. Choclo is corn (never had such delicious corn in my life). She also made some homemade jugo de piña. After lunch I went on a four hour walking adventure in Cusco. I went to find my school, and roamed around Cusco: Church of Santo Domingo y Coricancha & Plaza de Armas.

Monday, July 10 _ This morning at orientation I met Mayke (the school director of Academia Latinoamericana de Español), and Gorki (Tour Guide and Activities coordinator). After orientation Gorki took us on a walking tour of Cusco (Qoricancha [Templo del Sol de los Incas], Mercado Central, Catedral, Plaza de Armas con la representación de un Inca, Iglesia Jesuita). At 2:30 went back to school to meet my teacher Beatriz who taught us about “La cultura indígena andina”. I learned about how the Incas culture is still alive. It is so visible in every corner of Cusco (lenguaje [quechua], música, ropa, manifestaciones culturales, y su sistema de vida). I also learned how the culture differs from the selva, costa, sierra regions, and the 13 provinces. One of the things that struck me was the discrimination towards “los campesinos”. Even though they are Peruvians, they are considered inferior just because they have a different culture. We also had a big discussion over the fusion of the Spanish and indigenous cultures (sincretismo).
El condor, el puma, la serpiente were sacred for the Incas because they represented (el mundo de arriba, el mundo de donde nos encontramos, y el mundo de más abajo). “El Dios del Sol era sumamente importante para los Incas”.

Tuesday, July 11 _ What an amazing day! Sacsayhuaman is a group of constructions located 2 kilometers to the north, in the high part of Cusco – over 3,600 meters. Sacsayhuaman was part of the Incan city of Cusco. When Pachakutep redesigned the city, he had it built in the shape of a puma, which was a sacred animal of the Incas. Sacsayhuaman is considered the head of the puma. It was constructed in 90 years. Construction began in 1350 during the reign of Pachakutep, and completed during the reign of his successor, Tupac Inca Yupanqui. Important rituals of the zincs calendar were celebrated here. 25,000 men participated in the construction, over the period of 9 decades. The highest part of this archeological complex is where the towers were located, and from this point there is a magnificent panoramic view of Cusco. I refused to get to the top by bus. The walk was well worth it (the entire experience took 4 hours _ breath taking). In the afternoon our teacher took us to a weaving gallery museum. I learned about traditional textiles of Cusco region and the people who make and wear them, and the different stages of the weavers’ lives. An ancient, vital, and continuing tradition, these textiles are, by any standard, beautiful and technically remarkable. They are profoundly meaningful, in terms of community and individual identity, life cycle, and cultural significance.

Wednesday, July 12 _ The past couple of days Peruvian teachers have been on strike. They are asking the government for a salary raise. Teachers make $250 a month in Cusco. There have been lots of demonstrations, and as a result the transportation system has been shut down. Even the stores have been forced to close. ” Vamos pueblo, carajo. El pueblo no se rinde”. This is what everyone was chanting during the demonstration “The people won’t give up”. This morning I checked out a couple of museums: Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporáneo, and Museo Histórico Regional. The most important lesson I learned is that “The runas (humans) have a single large ch’uklla (house), called Pacha Mama (Mother Earth), HER LIFE IS IN DANGER. It is up to us to save her. Los runas (humanos) tenemos una sola gran chu’klla (casa), se llama Pacha Mama (Madre Tierra). Su vida está en peligro. Depende de nosotros salvarla.

To be continued…

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