Reflections of Cuzco....

Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
Trip End Apr 08, 2008

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Qu'orichaska Hostel

Flag of Peru  ,
Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sadly, our time in the jungle comes to an's back to Cuzco.  We end up spending about 2 weeks in and around Cuzco...including Machu Picchu and the mountains and the ruins in the vicinity and the jungle.  It's a very comfortable place...and very's the crafts center of the Peruvian universe...I guess when the Spanish moved in they relocated lots of people and the artisans were concentrated in and around here.  The whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage site.    True, there are lots of tourists but they take various forms so even they as a group can provide amusement.  There are lots of the backpacking variety, and it's nice to see them hanging out in the plaza, there are the more stereotypical tourists, but they're from all over the world, and appear to be mostly from Peru or Argentina...there are surprisingly few from the US.  The food here is diverse....we've found some great restaurants...even tried the Alpaca steak (no cholesterol, no chemicals). 
There are all sorts of entrepreneurs on the streets, both young and old, and some really talented ones as young as 6-7-8 years.  My favorite is Jose, this little guy who is always around the Jack's Restaurant corner...he comes into the restaurant with his half-toothed smiles and knows how to charm his customers.  I've already bought a couple of finger puppets that I didn't need and some cards from him, just because I enjoy having him around.  People all around town are friendly...even though they're hoping to get a sole for everything from a photo to a piece of information.  I meet this small 13 year old, Luis who I chat with for a while...he's a shoe shiner and keeps asking to shine my hiking boots.  Well I already had that done just to participate in the local economy and I ended up with some black-rimmed feet.  But Luis keeps hanging out...I'm enjoying him and practicing my Spanish... he wants me to take him back to NY with him.    I'm trying to tell him why that would be impossible...he counters with a description of his large, single-parent family and how he will get the necessary papers to make it not impossible.  I'm actually letting it enter the realm of possibility in my head....what it would be like for both me and Luis if I brought him to my home.  Of course, I do not do that but there's clearly a part of me that would like to. 
Cusco is a town with a rich history and a strong tourist trade.  We know a bunch of the police officers by now because we had a little malfunction with a tour agency and after unsuccessfully trying to rectify it in-house, we enlisted the assistance of the local tourist police.  They were amazingly helpful and sincere, which again challenged my preconceptions - they worked it all out for us and reminded us to please come back to Peru... that there are many good people here...that they will welcome us to their towns.  I actually bonded with Ronaldo, the officer in charge of the investigation.  While spending most of the day with him, I learned about his life and family and goals and found him to be a very earnest young guy...and coincidentally his youngest sister is working in Port Chester, NY, the town my mom grew up in.  And what I found so touching was that as I was leaving, he requested that I look in on his sister because she was out there alone and he was worried about her.  Of course I am more than happy to do that, so now I have a new future friend in Port Chester.   And a whole lot of new police officer-type friends in Cuzco. 
Demonstrations in the streets today...always interesting and this is one of the best...lots of people from all the surrounding towns, all sorts of banners and signs and posters, chanting, yelling, jumping, firecrackers, and's fascinating to witness until the tire burnings start...just for effect, pour gas into an old tire and light it up.... it stinks!!!  Plus it fills the air with nasty black toxic smoke...but it gets attention.   Anyway, back to the protest...apparently the gov't intends to privatize all the Inca ruins...which will have a huge impact on the local tourist industry.  There'll be fancy, hi-rise hotels near the ruins, and the profit will be far out of the hands of the local entrepreneurs...I'm amazed at how well organized this demonstration is...and with a very diverse group of marchers - there are tons of student groups, local tourist agencies, artesans and weavers, construction people, transit people, etc.... A cab driver, an old guy who speaks easily understood Spanish, tells us that there's a planned shutdown of all businesses on Feb 7 in Cusco.  This means the tourist trade stands still...which may put a crimp into some people's vacation plans...
All sorts of activism is alive and well in Cuzco.  I've hooked into a group of people involved with YES!, a global network of enormously motivated young people...they have gatherings all over the world that connect people who are driving change forward in their communities.  I spend the day with Elena, a Mexican woman recently moved to Cuzco and find her completely inspiring...she is committed to contributing in whatever way she can, and she and her partner Jamie, a Canadian, are in the process of actualizing some amazing plans for a project in Tapalpa, Mexico.  It revolves around promoting the well being of kids, and thereby promoting the health of the planet.  Elena invites me to spend time with this group of YES! people from all over the world that are gathering at her home.  This is how I get to meet Kirititapu, a young Maori activist whose gaze is direct as is her intention, and a passionate, expressive, cosmovision-focused man from Brazil who personally generates enough electricity to power anything within his reach.  And I am gifted to spend time with Puma, a Peruano trained by his father as a medicine man...the beauty of his words still resonates in my mind.  And then there are the others, from Bolivia and even from San Francisco who are part of this international community of shape-shifters.
It is Elena's birthday and we honor her by the sharing of some of the best food I've had since I've been here and by singing songs from our respective worlds.  This is clearly a very powerful group of people and I want to spend more time with them to understand their stories and their work.  I'm fortunate to be able to do that...and in the reflection of their words I find myself thinking about the integration of social welfare and environmental welfare.  My awareness shifts to a more inclusive position... the Earth - Pachamama - does not function in isolation as a physical structure but rather as a concept unified with the life it supports and with the energy passed between.  By improving the lives of people in our community we are, in effect promoting envt'l sustainability....and by attending to our environment, we are sustaining people.   In the study of environmental activism it is just as important to recognize and value the contribution of social activists to environmental welfare...those that are working towards our global health through people avenues.  And once this awareness clicks in my consciousness, I am reminded of a multitude of social sustainability projects and the global activists that are contributing to our planet in this way...not only those that are so evident right here in Peru but within my local community as well.  People creating businesses with the primary purpose of supporting community...whether it be improving the lives of street children or perhaps the homeless or other disenfranchised individuals.   Community workers / educators who are promoting pride in culture and tradition and working to provide relevant life skills to young people.  And the importance of supporting the efforts of change makers and the critical need for each and every one of us to contribute to positive change is only more apparent and essential....and easy...and our only option.  
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andeanwings on

This reviw is wonderful! Absolutlly nice.

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