Karencita de Perú

Cusco Part 2 – Cuzco Parte 2

Posted on: August 14, 2010

As the former capital of the Inca Empire, the population of Cusco today is largely indigenous.  In many areas both Spanish and Quechua are spoken.  Quechua is the language that was spoken in the Andes at the time of the Inca and today there are still some people in the region who only speak Quechua and not Spanish.

The indigenous people of Cusco maintain their traditional style of dress, which is very colorful and charming.  Skirts are commonly worn by the woman and they have their hair in long braids topped with a bowler hat, a tradition that began in the 1920’s.  Clothing is made from cotton and wool of alpaca and llama.  The tradition styles of dance and music continue to be very important parts of the culture in Cusco.   A lot of Andean music uses the panflute, which is made from aquatic reeds found in many lakes in the region.

The primary industries in Cusco are agriculture and tourism.

In the Andean zone, they cultivate potatoes, maiz (corn), Quinua, Cañihua, Kiwicha (types of grains) and Olluco ( a root vegetable like a potato) .  In the valley, where the climate is warmer, they cultivate fruits, alfalfa and eucalyptus. In the high and low forests, they cultivate bananas, yuca, coca, sugar canes, coffee and cacao.  Along with agriculture there is a lot of livestock including cattle, sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas.

Cusco is a very touristy place as anyone going to Machu Picchu has to pass through the city.  There are numerous hotels, hostels, restaurants, tourists agencies and souvenir shops in Cusco. Many elders and children from the rural areas come into the city with their llamas or baby lambs and try to make money by having their photos taken with tourists.   It costs one sol to have your photo taken with them.  There are also people on the street trying to sell hats, sunglasses, purses and bags, water-bottle holders and a variety of other tourist-oriented merchandise.

Some of the local cuisine in Cusco includes cuy (guinea pig) and alpaca.  I tried both when I was there, although it was Luis that ordered these dishes.  Cuy actually tastes quite good, but there are a lot of little bones which makes it kind of tedious to eat.  Also, the fact the it comes served with the head and legs still attached makes it a little off-putting.   Surprisingly, cuy is quite expensive compared to other types of meats.  The alpaca was tender and tasted neither like chicken nor beef.  It was also quite good.  Below is the cuy and alpaca that we enjoyed while in Cusco.  I have a picture that shows a close-up of the head of the guinea pig where you can actually see the little teeth and whiskers, but I will spare you the graphic details.

Something that stood out to me in Cusco was the number of dogs.  There seems to be an unusually high dog population in the city.  No matter where you are you will see dogs strolling down the street or sleeping in the sun.  They also like to chase the cars as they drive by.  I couldn’t really tell if the dogs belong to people as pets or if there are just a lot of strays.  I suspect it is a little of both.  In the hills outside the city there are sheep farms and the dogs are used to help herd the sheep.  Interestingly, I didn’t see one cat in Cusco!  The little puppy on the right was playing with another older dog and was very cute.   The dog on the left was enjoying the early morning sun at the foot of the stair leading up to the cathedral in the Plaza de Armas.

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