Monday, June 1, 2015

Cusco - Day 8

Saturday, May 30
Today was a full day exploring Cusco.  It is a much more interesting city than I expected with a population of about 300,000 people and growing rapidly. Pepe said that people are coming down from the mountains and squating on land that is public property. Over time they build a new community and eventually get public services.
We started at 8 am with a walking tour on Ave. del Sol where our hotel is located. A few blocks up the street is Iglesia Santo Domingo. It was once El Templo del Qoricancha - the Temple of the Sun.
The Spanish built their church on top of the Inkan temple, as you can see in this picture, with the lower right hand side exhibiting the traditional Inka masonry.  Inside we saw the remains of male and female ceremonial rooms that were covered with plaster and painted over by the Spanish.
However, an earthquake in 1950 revealed the temples in the lower level, and they have been restored. In Inkan times, the walls were covered with gold and silver and windows were constructed so the sun would enter. 
From there we walked to The Plaza de Armas.
In Inkan times, it was known as the exact center of the Empire and was much larger. This was where important religious and military ceremonies were staged. Obviously, the Spanish kept the concept, since the Cusco Cathedral and another church now face the square.
On our walk, we encountered people selling items on the street and people posing for photos. This young girl has worked hard to make her outfit photo worthy, and you gotta love the skinny jeans underneath the skirt and the tiny lamb in her arms.
She was worth the one sol gratuity. However, I was distressed to see her later at 4 pm working another section of town. I had thought she was a shopkeeper's child, but I think she was on her own.
Before entering the cathedral, we saw these men dressed in costumes celebrating another tradition which I didn't fully understand, but I thought they made the photos of the Cathedral and the fountain in the Plaza far more interesting.
The Cathedral was quite beautiful, as they all are in their own way. This one was built on what was once the palace of Inca Wiracocha, and made in part from stones hauled from Sacsayhuaman outside the city (which we will visit tomorrow). Begun in 1559, it took a century to build. A second chapel was added in 1885 to complete the shape of a cross and enable the church to become a cathedral. Noteworthy is a painting of the Last Supper, with Christ and his apostles dining on roast guinea pig, hot peppers and Andean cheese. Also, they are seated at a trapezoidal table, which is a typical Inkan design. 
From there we had free time in the afternoon, and I didn't want to waist a minute. At first I walked around, just observing life in Cusco. These girls also must make a living posing for photos.
A few others are just going about life.
Then I headed to the Chocolate Museum with its very interesting display. I have been to several of these over the years and I always learn something new.
Then I headed to the Machu Picchu Museum which is relatively new. In 2007 the Peruvian government struck a deal with Yale University to have many of the artifacts removed by Hiram Bingham returned to Peru. This museum houses what has been sent so far. Although it is well arranged with wonderful descriptions in English, I thought the collection was sparse. It had some pottery, some simple bronze tools and photos of Bingham's expeditions. There was one piece of fabric woven from vicuña - I don't know how it survived - but I loved the Inkan designs. 
From there I headed down Hatinrumiyoc Street where I spotted the famous 12-angle stone. (Count them)
It illustrates the great precision Inkan masons used to ensure their stone blocks fit well together without mortar. We'll learn more tomorrow when we visit another site. But imagine this wall has been here over 500 years, surviving several major earthquakes.
I made my way up a street with very, very narrow sidewalks (you had to suck in your breath if a truck came down the street). I found this child navigating the street as precariously as I.
I ended up at San Blas Church and plaza with an artesian market. I was a little disappointed in the market because I expected some unique items. Unfortuntely the items could all be found in shops and stalls.
Still with some time, I went to Centro de Textiles where I could observe demonstrations of traditional weaving and knitting and see a museum. For me it was very interesting. I spent considerable time watching a woman working with a blackstrap loom and was fascinated.
It is very difficult and she seemed to create these intricate patterns with ease. Then I toured the museum which had examples and descriptions in English about the process of creating fabric and the role it plays in people's lives.
I ended my tour with a run through the artisans market which is across the street from our hotel. I must go back!
Tonight I went to Centro Oosqo de Arte Nativo where I enjoyed traditional music and dance performed in authentic dress from various regions.
Founded in 1924, they have given performances outside of Peru as well. Afterwards they have a small museum of the traditional dress from different groups on mannequins. The dancing was very energetic, but the treat for me was seeing the textiles.
Another packed day! 

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