Cusco and the Andean Culture

When our family revisited Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu (our first visit was when Marcus was 3-years old) this December, we learned a lot about the Andean culture, still alive and well in Peru today.

The Peruvian-Andean culture dates all the way back to the mysterious Inca empire of the thirteenth century. At its glory, the Inca empire stretched into Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. Its center and command was Cusco.

Cusco is situated in the Andes Mountain range, at an elevation of approximately 3,300 meters above sea level (that is well over 10,000 feet). Cusco features cobbled streets, quaint hole-in-the-wall shops and restaurants (the pizza is good), plus a towering cathedral in the main square and nearby ruins which are hotspots for tourists. Most significantly, Cusco is the portal to Machu Picchu, the hidden Inca city; the only part of the Inca empire not to be plundered by the Spanish conquerors.

The Incas called their empire, Tahuantinsuyu, which meant, a group of 4 regions or suyu. The corner of each suyu joined together in Cusco.

The Incas worshipped the sun god, Inti, and believed their king was the son if Inti. When the Spanish conquered the Inca empire in the 1500's, in pursuit of gold and power, they introduced Christianity and so, today, Cusco is a fusion of  both the Andean and Catholic religions. One example of this can be found on many household rooftops.

(This is the not the best picture, but it's my own so I'm using it.) 2 ceramic bulls guard each home from the rooftop, and the Catholic cross is centered between them. These Andean bulls are for protection; a good luck charm.

We toured the main square cathedral which is quite imposing on the inside. It was built over an Inca Palace called, Wiracocha. Inside hangs a replica of the famous Last Supper painting, except this copy is unique as it depicts Christ and his apostles feasting on cuy (guinea pig), an Andean delicacy.

At some restaurants, you may choose your cuy before you eat it.

This woman is wearing typical Andean clothing. If you are visiting Cusco with your child and wish to take a similar picture as this one, I suggest you negotiate the price of each picture you take before you take the pictures. I learned this lesson the hard way!

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