(An old post that never got published while I was in Cusco)
As the work team from Dearborn and North Carolina headed off to Machu Picchu today, Billy and I ventured out of Urubamba (where we are working at the Casa Girasoles home) and into Cusco for a slow and relaxing day.
Before I continue, it is important to know that the month of June is a big party month in the city and surrounding area of Cusco. Cusco, which means navel, in Quechua, is rich in Inca history since it was at the center of the Incan Empire, which stretched from southern Peru through northern Ecuador.
In Incan politics, the empire was ruled by the emperor, who according to Incan religion, was a direct descendant of their god, Inti, the Sun, and was also worshiped as a divine being. At the height of the Incan empire, the emperor’s name was Pachacútec. Pachacútec and and Incans worshiped their gods of the Sun, Moon, Rainbow, Mountains, Mother Earth, etc.
To celebrate Incan tradition and their rich heritage, every year on June 24th, the Cusqueñas (people from Cusco) hold huge festivals in and around the city. The biggest of these festivals is called Inti Raymi, which is supposed to take place Thursday.
The festival is supposed to take place this Thursday, but possible protests and a region-dehabilitating strike might take place on the same day. For the past two weeks people in the surrounding areas of Cusco have been on strike and protesting the Peruvian government and President Alan Garcia’s decision to build a dam in the area of Canchis. By building this dam, the Peruvian government would be reclaiming land from it’s people and taking a loan from the Japanese government to pay for construction. The Peruvian campesinos (people from the country) that live in the area of Canchis are not particularly thrilled to be losing their land and water supply, and therefore have been protesting the decision – including protesting in the Plaza de Armas of Cusco today.
In addition to the very large peaceful protest that occured in the Plaza de Armas, Billy and I also saw 10 different parades taking place in Cusco today. Not only were there at least 10 different parades, they were all over the city. Each parade stopped traffic and pedestrians that were in its way and followed their own path. One of the particularly memorable parades had men and little boys dressed up as bears/gorillas (it was hard to tell which animal it was) dancing around women who had on very colorful dresses. We’re not quite sure what they represented, but it was quite entertaining!