Posts Tagged ‘peru’

Photo: Los Uros on Lake Titicaca

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009
The hand-built island of Los Uros, floating on Lake Titicaca, in Peru.

One of many hand-built islets of Los Uros, floating on Lake Titicaca, in Peru.

One of the more interesting features of the Peruvian landscape are tiny islets floating on Lake Titicaca, fashioned from reeds, by Los Uros, people who lived in the area even before the Incas arrived. Most of the Los Uros people have moved off the islets, but a community of 200 remains today, still practicing their traditional methods of construction while adapting some aspects of modern technology; Uros use motorboats, watch TV, and have their own radio station.

Travel to see the Uros for yourself on our Treasures of Peru tour.

Have you ever built your own home, treehouse, lean-to or fort? Share below.

My Favorite Travel Mementos

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Amy Kotkin is Director of Smithsonian Journeys, the educational tour program of the Smithsonian Institution. She joined the Smithsonian in 1974 and over the past 35 years has developed a wide range of educational benefits for Smithsonian members nationwide. Click here to read Amy’s bio.

Amy and a small sampling from her textile collection.

Amy and a small sampling from her textile collection.

When I return home from my Around the World tour with Smithsonian members in April, chances are that my suitcase will be stuffed with colorful textiles. It never fails! Wherever I travel, I’m drawn to the artistry of local weavers and needleworkers whose works I’ve found in small shops, museums, on the streets, or even strung on a closeline between village huts. More than once I’ve been grateful that textiles became my particular travel passion! Portable, unbreakable, and usually inexpensive, textiles are pretty easy to bring home…far easier than, say, brass elephants.

So what happens when these fabrics “unite” in my home? Well, many become “working” pillows on the living room sofa and the upstairs bedrooms. But they all carry wonderful memories of previous Smithsonian Journeys, and I am always delighted when friends and family ask about their origins. Take the three in this picture that hang out together in my living room. (more…)

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.

Click here to learn more about our private jet tours.

Moving Forward: Dispatch 2 from Extraordinary Cultures Tour

Monday, March 16th, 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 second in a series. To see the other posts, click here.

Dateline: Peru

The Andes mountains loomed on the horizon as we arrived in Lima last evening. After an hour long rush hour traffic jam we checked into the hotel and enjoyed a dinner of Peruvan delicacies at Casa Luna—a home museum dedicated to Peruvian folk art, particularly nativity scenes and retablos, or altars, of every style.

Richard Kurin and daughter, Danielle, in Peru

Richard Kurin and daughter, Danielle, in Peru.

This morning we flew over the Andes landing at Cuzco—about 11,000 feet above sea level and nestled in the Urubamba valley, the sacred valley of the Incas. Cuzco was conceived as the navel of the Incan universe, and the capital of an empire that prior to Spanish conquest spread over a distance of 4,000 miles.

I was joined by my daughter Danielle, an archaeologist from Vanderbilt University who is running a project near Andahuaylas about 150 miles from Cuzco. She took an all night bus ride to join as a volunteer lecturer for a few days. I hadn’t seen her in months—so it was a fine father-daughter reunion.

Our Smithsonian group visited Sacsayhuaman—an Incan temple that overlooks Cuzco and in the colonial era became the site of a siege by the Spanish conquistadors.

Though some of the tour guides say it was a fortress, Ramiro Matos pointed out the ritual markers—a snake- like rock wall around the site—rather that fortification. Danielle noted a recent study of skeletal remains that show no record of trauma that would indicate a battle site. The Incan stone work was well engineered, with tight-fitting cut boulders finely angled to form walls.

We later visited Coricancha. This was an Incan temple of the sun upon which the Church of Santo Domingo was built. Some of the Incan walls and rooms were re-constituted. The Church held massive and dramatic paintings of Spanish colonial Christianity. We then visited the main Cuzco Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas. Seeing the elaborate gold gilding, there was no doubt where the fabled gold of the Incas had gone.

What struck me most in these sites was the cultural syncretism of Andean culture with those of Spanish colonial Christianity. A painting depicting the Last Supper featured Jesus and the Apostles eating a cuay—or guinea pig—an Andean staple. Similarly the supper table featured corn and other items native to the Americas. Similarly other paintings incorporated Andean symbols—like a crescent moon. A depiction of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus had both attired completely in Andean native dress. And the Church floor stones, cut and placed by native workers, included a few with carvings of Andean deities most likely done in resistance to forced labor.

Such examples illustrate how people adapt, interpret and mold their culture in light of ever changing circumstances. Culture is made and constantly remade by the living. We had a good illustration of that—with a musician playing new tunes for tourists based on old folk songs, and a weaver using a traditional loom to formulate novo-traditional styles of textile weaving for sale.

Tomorrow we are up before dawn for a journey to Machu Pichhu.

Click here to read Richard’s first dispatch from this tour.

Click here to learn more about our private jet tours.