Posts Tagged ‘centralsouthamerica2011’

Embracing Peru: Dispatch 4 from Extraordinary Cultures Tour

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Richard Kurin is the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture here at the Smithsonian Institution. He is a cultural anthropologist specializing in the study of knowledge systems, folk arts, museums, and development. He is currently Study Leader on our Extraordinary Cultures – An Epic Journey Around the World tour, and will be blogging periodically while traveling. This post is fourth in a series. To see the other posts, click here.

Paso horses demonstrate their unique style. Photo: Richard Kurin

Paso horses demonstrate their unique style. Photo: Richard Kurin

Dateline: Lima, Peru

 

We left the beautiful Monasterio—a former 16th century monastery converted into a hotel—and Cuzco, and flew back through the Andes on a wonderful clear day.
Back in Lima the group toured the city, including the downtown—a designated UNESCO world heritage site that became deserted in the late 1980s due to the influx of refugees who fled their homes in the countryside due to the terrorism of the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru. These refugees swelled Lima’s population to somewhere between 8-10 million, many of whom built shanty-towns atop the Pacific coastal sand dunes that surround the city. Interestingly, those houses rest upon terraces, just like they do in the Andes. Instead of precisely cut and engineered stone of the Inca, these folks fill plastic shopping bags with sand and build embankments that allow them to form level space on the massive sand dunes.

Still, the central town square with its historic church, founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro, is beautiful, with baroque structures, towers, and Moorish influenced wooden balconies.

Marinera norteña dancing. Photo: Richard Kurin

Marinera norteña dancing. Photo: Richard Kurin

We found more of this Spanish colonial heritage in the Mamacona hacienda on the outskirts of the city. The family raises paso walking horses—a 400 year-old Peruvian colonial breed, and riders gave us a demonstration of the technique—each foot of the horse hits the ground at a different time sequentially.

We were treated to a delicious meal and folk dances in the marinera norteña folk style among others. These indicated Spanish Andalusian roots, but also Andean and African influences. Some were slow and elegant, others energetic and even bawdy—and members of the Smithsonian group joined in.

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Going Up: Dispatch 3 from Extraordinary Cultures Tour

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Richard Kurin is the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture here at the Smithsonian Institution. He is a cultural anthropologist specializing in the study of knowledge systems, folk arts, museums, and development. He is currently Study Leader on our Extraordinary Cultures – An Epic Journey Around the World tour, and will be blogging periodically while traveling. This post is the third in a series. The first two posts can be found here and here.

Dateline: Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu. Photo: Richard Kurin

An early morning Vista Train ride took us through the Urubamba Valley, sacred to the Incas. We saw glaciers atop the Apus, or mountain peaks thought to be alive with the power of deities and marveled at the grassy slopes, plants, mosses, cacti, orchids and flowers emerging from Pachamama, the mother earth.

Ramiro and Danielle lectured on the pre-Incan, Incan and contemporary cultural worlds of the region. As our narrow gauge train wound its way following the swift-moving whitewater Urubamba River, we saw glimpses high up the mountains of the Inca Road, the network of which connected regional cultures and an empire. At Aguas Caliente we bussed up to Machu Picchu.
Sun and clouds fought, as they usually do, in a place that seems to sit atop the world, floating in the midst of magnificent skyward thrusting peaks. Our travelers broke up into several groups with guides taking us through and explaining the archaeological remains. Was Machu Picchu a ritual center for the supreme Inca or a getaway “Club Med” for the elite?

These terraces were originally used for growing pototatoes and other produce. Photo: Richard Kurin

These terraces were originally used for growing pototatoes and other produce. Photo: Richard Kurin

The scale of the site is impressive, but more so the planning and labor that had to have assembled this city on a mountain top. Frequent rain fed terraced agricultural in order to provide for food. Stone houses and other quarters were thatched and provided shelter. Ritual centers expressed Incan cosmology. Our group took it all in.

This post is the third in a series. The first two posts can be found here and here.

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