Cusco, Peru and Copacabana, Bolivia- According to the Incan creation myth, the creator god Viracocha emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca and created the sun, moon and stars. The sun sent his son, Manco Capac, and the moon sent her daughter, Mamo Ocllo, to the surface of the lake, born from the Sacred Rock of the Isla del Sol, to found the Incan empire in Cusco. The empire spread throughout the Sacred Valley of the Incas and high up into the surrounding mountains. The architectural and astronomical wonder known as Machu Picchu is just one of many stone villages and fortresses found in the sacred valley. At its height in the mid 1500s, before the Spanish arrived, the empire spread from Ecuador to Chile. It’s center was Cusco.
What was the center of Incan culture is now the gringo capital of Peru. And along with the gringos come droves of poor Peruvians, most of Incan descent, trying anyway they can to make a living from the money we seem to carry in endless supply. From high dollar posh hotels and luxury train tours to dirty shoeshine boys and little girls selling finger puppets for pennies, the visiting gringo is inundated with constant persistent requests to buy something. “No gracias” is the gringo mantra, chanted over and over. Some people just print it on their shirts. Cusco has everything. There are Irish pubs, discos, expensive jewelry and art boutiques, shiatsu parlors, bungee-jumping parks, whatever you want, all literally built upon Incan ruins. After the Spaniards sacked the city and killed the inhabitants, they simply built their colonial mansions right on top of the existing Incan stone foundations (Typical Cusco alley with Incan stone foundation shown right). As a symbol of their triumph, they purposely constructed their (quite amazing) churches over previous Incan temples. It is widely believed that the famous lost treasure of the Incas is buried in tunnels underneath the city. Continue reading