Towns and landscapes
Museums, monuments and churches
Politics and society
Between April 25 and July 4, 2013, I travelled from Punta Arenas, Chile to Cartagena, Colombia. I flew across most of Chile because I was already familiar with it, but took buses for most of the rest. The scenery was dramatic enough to keep my eyes wide open; I wished all were day trips. I’m so glad so much life happens out of doors, where I could see it! Better still was listening to them and reading about them, learning about their perception of the events that have affected their lives. Of course I went to many museums for the concentrated and even idealized view of “who we are,” but mostly I just walked the streets. The further north I moved, the more likely people were to identify me not as North American or Canadian, but as Chilean or Argentine, because of the way I speak Spanish.
I am impressed by the pride and optimism I found, especially in the northern countries. People in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia believe politicians need not be corrupt or stupid, that governments can accomplish a great deal, and that they can’t be forced to submit to the giant banks, corporations, or governments of the world. These are attitudes seldom seen elsewhere!
I’ve loosely organized my thoughts and perceptions into topics, and have done the same with my photographs. For each topic or set of topics, there is a link to an online album of my photos; for each bolded term there is at least one image. I suggest google images or videos when I think these are particularly impressive. At the end of each section is a list of further references.
Pictures speak louder than words, so I’ll use more of the former than of the latter. The itinerary is in this order:
– Punta Arenas, Chile http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=794558
– Isla Riesco, Chile
– Puerto Natales, Chile
– El Calafate, Argentina
– Estancia Ruben Aike, Argentina
– Río Grande, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
– Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia. (2013, 8 de mayo). Wikipedia, La enciclopedia libre. Fecha de consulta: 12:54, mayo 14, 2013 desde http://es.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ushuaia&oldid=66741804.
– Santiago, Chile
– La Paz, Bolivia. With the help of lots of coca-leaf tea, I avoided soroche, altitude sickness. It was a bit breathtaking climbing up every hill and staircase I walked down, and there are plenty of both! Plane circles around the valley La Paz is in – flying over huge plain, then sharp drop off. Buildings spill down the hillside.
– Copacabana, Bolivia. Lighting is brilliant! Clear air, bright sunshine! Visited Isla del Sol – Island of the Sun. Gorgeous hillsides and agricultural terraces at least a thousand years old. Cold! Down to freezing at night. Copacabana is a port on Lake Titicaca. On the beach are all sorts of recreational water craft piloted or rented out by locals: pedal swans, cylinders, kayaks, and many launches going to Isla del Sol. There’s a nice costanera walkway along the shore, and decent food booths. A couple of bar/coffee shops on the corner of the busiest street draw in the American kids.
– Puno, Peru. Pretty much the same altitude. It’s warm in the daytime! My landlady tried to convince me it’s normal to wear a winter coat indoors, but I refused to agree. To stay in bed under a feather duvet is acceptable. Loved the Islas Flotantes – floating islands.
– Cuzco, Peru. Lots of pre-hispanic and colonial remains. Also lots of street processions in celebration of Corpus Christi. The scale, ingenuity and beauty of the indigenous architecture, the weaving, the development of a form of religion that is Roman Catholic Plus, the community distinctions (intra and inter) by textile, use of fireworks and processions, marching bands, marketing by women, maintenance of language, all were reminiscent of Oaxaca.
– Lima, Peru. The ocean, museums, downtown, a lovely hostel. Larcomar, which is a shopping center. Downtown Lima is colonials, and the gracious neighborhood of Pueblo Libre has parks and trees and barmen behind wooden bars.
– Trujillo, Peru. A lovely Plaza de Armas, a couple of big sets of burial mounds and acres of Chan Chan.
– Chiclayo, Peru. More archeological sites. All this pretty much desert.
– Cuenca, Ecuador. Bisected by a lovely river, paralleled by a great walking/biking path. Museums and the beautiful ceramics of Eduardo Vega. Currency is the U.S. dollar. It takes a while to stop trying to convert!
– Quito, Ecuador. Colonial centre of town. Museums, the plaza full of preachers contradicting each other on Sunday afternoons, and an expedition to the Mitad del Mundo – half of the earth. I just had to go to the Equator, didn’t I? Quicentro commercial centre is a different world.
– Bogotá, Colombia. Candelaria neighborhood of universities, students, bookstores, museums, government buildings, pedestrian walks, lots of life. (Colombia is also the land of safe-to-drink tap water and good WiFi.) Industrial outskirts.
– Manizales, Colombia. Twisty, windy roads along ridges, through coffee country, beautiful views without snow. There seem to be no city maps – perhaps because the city consists of patches of settlement scattered on the more level sections of valleys and hilltops. What does a map do with an expanse of empty vertical hillside? Alternatively, how does a two-dimensional map portray streets that are almost stacked on top of each other?
– Medellín, Colombia. Recently recognized as Innovative City of the Year for such things as cable cars and escalators linking neighborhoods clinging to hillsides to the cleanest Metro system (above-ground light rail transit) I’ve ever seen.
– Cartagena, Colombia. Returning to Caribbean humid heat, which I haven’t experienced for four months, since Central America. Carriages drawn by horses clopping through the street late at night.
– It’s Colombia, not Columbia:
I admired people standing in long, orderly lines on the sidewalk in La Paz, waiting for micros. That’s not how it used to be, said driver Rolando. People would just mob a micro (a large van) that drove up; it was a question of survival of the strongest. Recently, the municipality created the Guardia Municipal de Transporte to issue traffic tickets and make people line up. They also make sure colectivo drivers charge only approved rates. Not everyone likes it, especially drivers who have to pay tickets. These Guardias aren’t corrupt like the police, he says; faced by the latter, offer them a peso or two to leave you alone.
Lima has a slick Metropolitano system, a network of double-jointed buses that run down the center of avenues, stopping at specific stations whose doors match with bus doors, though they’re not on a rail or a tram. It uses a chip card. Quito’s Ecovía is much the same, but one pays in cash – U.S. $0.25. On the train, people were really kind to me. One man gave me a pointed look, which led me to look at another, who was offering me his seat. He later held a phone conversation in English!
A microbus in Lima probably seats thirty passengers. The buses are cramped and jump along suddenly (reminding me of the old Punta Arenas term, “liebres” – hares), so if you’re standing, hang on! But they do get there and, at least outside rush hour, are pretty humane. “Rush hour” starts at about 7 p.m. And, unlike Chile, businesses don’t close over lunch hour. They really work a long day here! But most stores don’t open until 10 a.m.
There’s an obvious code for bus seating. Younger people stand for elders, and everyone gets up for pregnant women and those with infants. Interestingly, there weren’t too many of either one. Must be an urban area! The most astounding character is the driver’s assistant. He jumps out of the bus at every stop and hollers the route, including such information as “¡Hay asientos!” (There are seats!) He tells the driver when to stop to let people off, banging on the side of the bus as needed, and in the midst of all this, collects fares periodically, remembering who hasn’t paid and how much they owe. It requires strength, agility, acute alertness, multitasking, nerves of steel. No wonder they chew gum like madmen!
I tried to figure out the traffic rules in Lima.The first is to stop as seldom as possible. For example, if a car in front of yours brakes for a turn, immediately brake and switch lanes. Soon, the braking is transferred laterally, across a multilane highway. Secondly, even painted lane dividers are just a suggestion of how many cars can fit in, across. Anywhere you can nose your way in, do. Whether of people or cars, one-at-a-time queues are respected (e.g. at the grocery store); once they become several across, forget it.
My favorite parts of the expedition to Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (“Half the World City” on the Equator, in Quito, Ecuador) were the hike way up to the top of the Centro Histórico to catch the Metrobus and the one-hour bus trip each way. These are big buses. I got to sit the whole way, as it was Sunday. People get onto the bus through one of three doors, and it seems the bus ayudante (assistant) is able to keep track of who has paid, collecting at some point during the trip – not necessarily when getting on or off! The bus route on the highway skirts the top of the city, heading north. Much of it is through housing of very ordinary construction, some is through lovely green eucalyptus forest, and there are some beautiful condominium developments.
Attitudes regarding taxis are ambivalent. I seldom met a taxi driver who did not warn me about other drivers. They’re infamous for robberies, kidnappings, and extorsion. Never take a cab on the street, always have the hotel or restaurant supply you with a trusted taxi, take down their taxi or license plate number, etc. Alternatively – official taxis at the airport are always safe, etc. Hard to say; they treated me well.
Manizales has buzetas, smallish upscale buses with a seat for each passenger (not allowed to have them standing), but with little legroom. (I couldn’t face forward!) Air conditioned, I think. Regular, larger “buses” are much more crowded, run somewhat different routes, and are probably a lot cheaper. The busetas never look full; a ride costs $1500 Cop, or about $0.75.
Getting around Medellín is great fun. I got on the Metro B to San Javier, and onto the Metrocable from there to Estación La Aurora. The Metro is an above-ground LRT system, in two great long lines. There are two Metrocable lines feeding off these. The newest goes uphill from Estación San Javier, and I do mean up. It has to be, to make a cable-car system worthwhile! The cable cars hold ten people each, and go through at the rate of about one a minute. The views both up and down are spectacular. No wonder tourists are encouraged to use them – though their primary purpose is to make it easier for people from poorer neighborhoods – and they do get poorer with altitude – to get down to the Metro line and thus move around town. The Metrocable and Metro stations, lines and cars are spotless. Soft music plays. The Metrocable line that branches off Metro A from Estación Acevedo, goes to La Esperanza, linking to another line up to a park, requiring extra payment. It’s a bit older, but still great.
I travelled both Metro and Metrocable lines, not quite all the way, in about two hours. I couldn’t leave the stations, but could get out and walk around and look about. It cost $1,500 Cop, about $0.80. I don’t suppose that’s totally cheap in local terms, but not bad.
Metro images: https://www.google.com.co/search?gs_rn=17&gs_ri=psy-ab&pq=metro+edellin&cp=7&gs_id=22&xhr=t&q=metro+medellin&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.48572450,d.dmQ&biw=1024&bih=475&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=es-419&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=Kn_PUeryHI_r0QG4ooCYDQ#facrc=0%3Bmetro%20medellin%20dentro&imgrc=_
Metrocable images: https://www.google.com.co/search?gs_rn=17&gs_ri=psy-ab&pq=metro+medellin&cp=8&gs_id=c&xhr=t&q=metrocable+medellin&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&biw=1024&bih=475&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=es-419&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=mX_PUdSyL7S30QHTioHQBA
An lot of Colombian women of all ages ride motorcycles, often with other women on the back. (And it’s not illegal for men to ride on the back of bikes, either.)
At the Plaza de Armas in Santiago, Chile was Clara, making and selling horse-hair weavings (artesanía en crin). She’d just been caught dozing. She’d been up all night at the wake of a good friend who had the newspaper stand next door. The women had breakfast, lunch and coffee together for years. For an idea of horse-hair weaving, see
Leal, Paula and Tromben, Manuela, producers (n.d.) Women weaving with horsehair: Rari, Chile. http://vimeo.com/11921222
Women on sheep ranches (estancias) in Patagonia are ideally placed to gather, clean, card, spin, and weave or knit their own wool, should they be so inclined. Andie of Estancia Skyring has her own studio/retreat for just that purpose! Her brother, who lives in Vancouver, Canada, is a carver of wood (and bone!). There’s an autobiography of David Cartwright Compton at http://www.bclogandtimberbuilders.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/19FINAL.pdf. Their mother’s mother used her skills as a botanical illustrator to support her children!
Elise is the mother of one of my schoolmates, whom I’ve known since 1960. It’s great to see how she and Peggy watch out for each other without getting in each other’s hair! When I visited, Elise wore a sweater that matched almost perfectly the table covering she’d cross-stitched in wool!
At Estancia Ruben-Aike in Argentina, Mario does some wonderful leatherwork, making horse tack and knife handles by braiding strips of goat hide. He buys the goat skins cured, and then cuts them into very thin strips, 1/8” at most. As many as 72 strips are then interwoven. It is gorgeous, very precise work. He attends the livestock shows in Buenos Aires to learn from exhibitors, and in turn wins prizes at heritage festivals with his own work. All over Central and South America, I’ve run across Argentines selling their woven waxed-thread work to support themselves.
Knitting and crocheting are very widely practiced in South America. On Las Rosas street in Santiago are many wool stores, bursting with women. Many are taking classes, learning particular stitches and methods from a designated teacher, getting out of the house and meeting with friends. By later in the afternoon, a lot of the women vendors of La Paz, Bolivia are knitting and crocheting in the streets. Shawls are often crocheted by hand in very fancy stitches, usually neutral colors. They also make gloves and hats of all shapes and styles. How I’d love to be able to photograph the hats and shawls, and their knitting! But it’s pretty apparent they don’t really want to have any more to do with me than is necessary.
An aguayo is a rectangular woven cloth worn on the back, usually by women, and used as a coat, a backpack, to carry small children, on the ground as a spread to sit on or eat off of, etc. I loved watching three people in La Paz going through beautiful weavings. One man had them on his lap and went through them systematically while a couple made comments. They didn’t see me, and I didn’t interrupt them. I don’t know who was buying and who was selling. https://www.google.ca/search?q=bolivia+weaving&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&biw=1280&bih=899&bvm=pv.xjs.s.en_US.c75bKy5EQ0A.O&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=drHpUeORHaazyAHqjoD4AQ
I had a good laugh with a market women in Copacabana, Bolivia, who sold containers made from used car tires – planters, watering troughs, etc. I thought it great recycling, and she was delighted that I paid her for the photo!
Each family on the Uro floating islands sells some crafts and keeps the proceeds. They all sell pretty much the same items, so when I saw one woman doing embroidery herself, I just had to buy a couple of pieces from her. They also sell to souvenir shops in the area of Puno, Peru. http://walkingtree.smugmug.com/Other-1/2013-Peru-Two-Week/i-mHkkxQq/A
Although much activity on the floating islands is organized in a cooperative fashion, gondola building is not. Gondolas are catamarans, a double version of the traditional reed boat (caballito de totora), with a structure built on top to look somewhat like one imagines Egyptian barges, usually with a panther head woven of reeds on the prow. (Traditionally, they had a sail.) Methods and techniques are being refined. The reed cylinders are filled with thousands of plastic bottles! It takes a couple of months to make each one. Residents of an island pool their funds and order a gondola which, when full of tourists, is poled around the island. Proceeds are shared. This enterprise was developed probably within the last decade.
The ceramic bulls of Pucara are famous. Bull-fighting is still practiced in Peru, and the story is that the original bull of Pucara was forced to snort chili, driving him nuts. This, in ceramic form, became a symbol of family and household protection, perched on the peak of practically all roofs!
Catholicism provides the stimulus for a great deal of craft production. In Cuzco, Peru is the Arte e Imaginería Aller. Its owner, Aller Arellano Majad Arons, makes figures of rice flour, and others of coated fabric. The young clerk at the store told me the story of Manuelito de la Espina (Manuelito of the Thorn). He was one of many street urchins. People got angry because he wasn’t doing anything productive, so they tried to capture him. As they chased him, they’d be just about to grab him and he’d disappear, springing up just a little further on, just a little smaller. Finally, he jumped into a cactus patch. He was later found in a church, crying piteously, trying to remove the thorn from his bleeding foot. The little dolls are just gorgeous, with beautifully delicate faces. Each has a tiny mirror inside his mouth to keep dust out, the clerk said!
When I walked into the Tienda y Museo Textil on the Plaza de Armas in Cuzco, the sight and smells of stacks and stacks of old, hand-woven, woolen textiles left me speechless. The store was tended by a middle-aged man whose eightyish mother, Josefina Olivera Rendón, collected the pieces at the urging of her mother and aunt. “Gente del campo” (rural people) were getting rid of them, discarding and burning them, in exchange for industrial products. The weaving is not being done much any longer, and no one is raising the alpacas or llamas for their own use. She’s become quite famous for her collection and sales, interviewed by magazines and photographed with Mick Jagger! Josefina’s son would like to sell his stock and open a museum with five or six hundred really high quality pieces they have.
On Avenida del Sol is the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco. A vital force there is Nilda Cañallaupa, responsible for reviving much of it. She helped form the foundation that runs this rather spectacular center. (No photos allowed!) http://www.textilescusco.org/ http://www.folkartmarket.org/artists/nilda-callanaupa-alvarez-and-lidia-callanaupa-alvarez/
In Bolivia and Peru are tons of knitted garments for sale, almost all supposedly made of baby alpaca. (There can’t possibly be that many baby alpacas in the world!) Twice I was taken by a tour guide to a “textile workshop”, in each case, actually a store. First, we were made to feel the difference between alpaca and sheep’s wool, then alpaca and acrylic, with baby alpaca being especially prized. Kind of interesting, but I still can’t tell the difference except by burning.
Different substances are used for washing the dirty wool. Quinoa (kinwa) and sakta both produce suds and quickly whiten wool. I was skeptical about quinoa, but then was reminded that the bitter flavor which must be leached out of unprocessed quinoa is caused by saponin, a natural soap.
We were shown several natural dye sources. The most dramatic (as in Oaxaca) was cochineal. We were also shown some weaving techniques. In neither case was there much for sale in the store using either the dyeing or weaving techniques, but one was making contributions from profits to support women who do use them. (I was grateful for the mate de coca they had ready to serve.)
I was surprised to find cochineal in both Peru and Mexico, grown on the same nopal / tuna cactus pads. One site claims cochineal originated in Peru and was used there three centuries before it was traded to Mexico, twelve hundred years ago. I can’t see his evidence, though I’m willing to believe trade was taking place. (The problem is absence of archeological evidence.) http://www.cochinealdye.com/html/latin_america.html
I was pleased to find arpilleras are still being made in Peru, and kept my purchases down to one! (These are images appliquéd in fabric collages. They depict scenes from life: the market, the farm, the home, the street demonstration.) The vendor at the Mercado Indio in Lima was Elena. She asked many questions about me, and cautioned me a great deal about being robbed while in the city!
At the same craft market, the Mercado Indio, I became familiar with Tablas de Sarhua. These are scenes (in the style of 16th Century Quechua chronicler Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala) engraved onto beams or boards used in the construction of the home of a new family, depicting their genealogy and the activities of family members. This pinterest board is a good one: http://pinterest.com/sarhua/tablas-de-sarhua/
A workshop in Cuenca, Ecuador, made items from recycled copper. The metal comes from houses renewing their water systems, vehicles, refrigerators, etc. Father, son and uncle cut open pipes, reheat, hammer out thin, enamel, reshape. They used to work only in silver, but it became too expensive. They also make chain mail and wire replicas of balconies!
Carlos Bustos has worked for forty years doing tinwork, Mexican-style. When it’s chilly, he sits outside his shop in his car until a customer – like me – appears.
Cuenca is also the place where Panama hats are made. (The name originated with someone who didn’t know his geography.) The Panama Hat Museum (or one of them, anyway) is really just a hat factory open to the public, with some older machinery: hat moulds, hat shapes, presses, etc.
The “paño de Gualaceo”, also called “ikat,” is one of the more unique Cuenca rebozos (shawls), woven and finished in macramé. What’s unique is the tie-dying of the yarn used in weaving, so it makes repetitive and recognizable figures. The paño is from this region; the “ikat” is a Malaysian term, meaning tie-dyed. http://www.ipsnews.net/2011/01/ecuador-keeping-age-old-weaving-technique-alive/
Also in Cuenca – but on the new side – is the Mirador Turi, overlooking the whole city. Very near the top is the Taller / Galería Eduardo Vega. He’s a wonderful ceramist, born in Cuenca in 1938. He does three-dimensional pieces as well as tiles. This is what I couldn’t resist: the one of Las Bordadoras (“The embroiderers” of skirts, part of the regional dress). And they allow photographs!
In Bogotá, Colombia I saw many young people – men at least as much as women – carrying woven or knitted bags over their shoulders. They’re in natural colors with geometric designs, and made of natural fibers. http://www.google.ca/search?gs_rn=20&gs_ri=psy-ab&cp=10&gs_id=13&xhr=t&q=mochila+wayuu&rlz=1C2AFAB_enCA452&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.49967636,d.cGE&biw=1241&bih=593&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=8jz4UYskhp-IAuOXgfgG
Phipps, Elena (January 1, 2010). Tracing cochineal through the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings. Retrieved July 26, 2013 from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1043&context=tsaconf
Phipps, Elena (January 10, 2010). Cochineal Red: The Art History of a Color. Montreal Museum of Art. http://books.google.ca/books?id=sHgkwaFhxv4C&pg=PA28&lpg=PA28&dq=cochineal+origins&source=bl&ots=VFLHUaMJEI&sig=EXW9CY7rMwWeSfVDtDZcCIa33VQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Lr_pUaGzEs2WyAGEnIHACw#v=onepage&q=cochineal%20origins&f=false
This time in Punta Arenas, Chile, I was able to stay in the Barrio Croata (Croatian neighborhood), which used to be the Barrio Yugoeslavo until Yugoslavia disintegrated. There is a certain kind of architecture that is characteristic of that neighborhood in particular, and I’d long wanted to experience living in one of those houses. They’re built right up to the sidewalk, with the front door and windows opening over it. The houses are symmetrical, with the door in the center and one window on each side. A central corridor runs from the front door down the center of the house, with bedrooms on each side and a kitchen at the back. Lots are deep, extending way back into the middle of the block, leaving lots of room for a vegetable garden. The houses are built of wood frame, and the outside shell is made of sheets of tin over wood planks. The roof is corrugated tin, often red, and the sides and trim any of a number of colors. My fondness for them is due to the trust and friendliness they imply; neighbors going by can holler in through windows open for fresh air in the morning, and carpets and bedding hang over the windowsill. Lying in bed, I could listen to people going by in the street, or stopping for a conversation or a quick kiss.
I continue to be very fond of the individualized self-construction of which most of Punta Arenas consists. Perhaps that fondness was created by living there. There are houses built of brick, big cement block, wood covered w/ tin, rounded modernistic concrete, the tudor framed style – so many different ones. Some cookie-cutter housing developments exist, but nothing like the proportion in western Canada. Even the main cemetery is like that. Each plot is designed individually and differently. New cemeteries, on the other hand, have name plates flush with the ground. (Much of this applies to the rest of South America as well.)
In total contrast, Helen lives on the eighth floor of a brand new apartment building in Ñuñoa, Santiago, a city of six million, surrounded by glittering buildings that are as tall or taller. These views are beautiful, too!
Houses on estancias (sheep ranches) allow for all sorts of self-expression and inventiveness. They change with family size, fuel and electricity, the availability of materials and workmen, full- and part-time residence, etc. At Estancia Skyring, for example, Gerald and Andie decided to expand on what had been the manager’s small house rather than live in the big house his parents had occupied. They added several bedrooms onto the smaller house for their children, heating the master bedroom, kitchen, living and dining room, and keeping banks of window panes that look out into the garden. “This house is full of history,” says Andie, every picture and object with a story.
Nearby, Estancia Dinah is also in a wooded area and uses wood for heating. The house was originally a puesto (a shepherds’ shack), added onto as it was affordable. Thus, wings and rooms were tacked on in all directions. It’s hard to heat, as air doesn’t flow from one area to the next; stoves require feeding every twenty minutes, and when all three are burning, it’s busy! Propane fuels a generator that comes on at about five p.m. and off at nine, and back on for a few hours in the morning. There are kerosene lamps in the bedrooms. Floors are somewhat uneven, as different parts of the house have settled at different rates.
Still, it’s great to have those different spaces, all of which have nice windows and views out over pampa, pines, and a great flower garden surrounded by a very high windbreak made of logs. In the morning, flocks of Patagonian parakeets arrive for mountain ash and other berries in the garden. There are black birds and thrushes, too.
The décore is quite English. I love the heavy flowered cotton upholstery. Walls are yellow, with picture frame panels. There are English and Patagonian landscape paintings, and lots of porcelain, stone, brass and copper bowls, ornaments and trophies. Built-in painted plain wood carpentry is everywhere, solid and functional.
Given the long summer days in Patagonia, gardens can be successful, but with lots of wind, low precipitation and cool temperatures, they often aren’t. People love having a bit of a glassed-in porch (like Cathy’s!), a sunroom or a windowsill for growing a few geraniums, ferns and Christmas cactus.
Quinchos are more common in Argentina than in Chile: an open (or well-ventilated) area separate from the house for asados (grills – roasting meat), accommodating lots of guests without messing up or smelling up the house.
One form of housing I didn’t think had existed for a century is the Cárcel de San Pedro, a prison in La Paz, Bolivia. Spouses and children live there with convicts. Prisoners rent their living quarters, of greater or lesser comfort depending on their means. They run the place, have a complex economic system providing all imaginable goods and services, elect their own government, and set their own laws. I became aware of it because of a meningitis scare. There was a proposal to evacuate the 250 children who live in San Pedro with their parents, to keep them in quarantine, house them in a hostel or with foster families, and there is now a plan to close down the century-old the complex. This will require careful negotiations with inmate residents!
Almost all of La Paz and El Alto, Bolivia are built of red brick. (Unlike Calgary, for example, it’s not because acres of housing were constructed by the same developer, but because everyone uses the same building material.) Adobe used to be most common, but the clay ran scarce and, simultaneously, manufactured bricks became plentiful and cheap. Tan adobe is still common on the outskirts of town and in rural areas. However, it’s easy to see why brick is winning out. Adobe has to be capped –with straw and boards, or tin sheeting, or at the very least plywood – so rain doesn’t wash it away. Bricks don’t present that problem. A lot of brick structures are only partially built; it isn’t ruined when the project pauses. Adobe bricks are made by hand, often dried in the yard where the construction is happening.
Only a few outbuildings are thatched with straw, though that appears to once have been the common roofing material. Many adobe buildings are missing roofs, which probably caved in. Almost all roofs are now metal. They probably require less effort and upkeep than straw. Employment for income – e.g. to buy a metal roof – reduces the “free” time available for unpaid labor – e.g. caring for thatched roofs. The proportion of tile roofs increases w/ proximity to Cuzco, where they’re compulsory for historical purposes.
The floating islands (islas flotantes) of the Uru (Uro) are made by cutting squares of reeds (totora, junco) and roots from the lake floor and lashing them together so the roots will mesh. Before long, that creates a solid, floating platform or raft which grows reeds. Reeds harvested elsewhere are piled on top, constantly, as those on the bottom are crushed and rot away. The end effect is that of a straw mattress. For conversation, we sprawled around just as a group would on an enormous water bed. The one-room shelters are placed on wooden platforms on the surface of the island, so they can be lifted and placed atop fresh reeds. Three to ten nuclear families share an island. They cook on two-burner clay braziers that have an opening in the front for wood to be placed in. They’re on stone platforms to avoid burning down the island. I’d have liked to see one in action.
Under the totora mats on roofs, I could see some metal roofs, and these are used on all public buildings, e.g. schools and meeting places. There are no real stores, but there are store/boats that travel from island to island. A few homes have solar panels. They boil water for drinking, and I just had to tell them of solar plastic bottle purification!
It’s about a fifteen-minute motorboat ride from the dock in Puno to the edge of the totora or junco reeds. A control point was set up there, supervised by one Uru man and two women. They collected the fees for tourists entering the area. There is a series of floating islands, I’m not sure how many (at least a score). Each has its own president, and they hold a council. I believe there’s an overall president as well, but it sounds more like a council gov’t. Tourism is the main source of revenue, and pretty carefully controlled. It’s also organized in a way to share the benefits pretty well.
The islands are visited by tourist boats on a rotating basis; a couple of managers make sure this is respected. Each boat visits the “capital island” of Utama which has a restaurant and snack bar. Lodgings are provided there as well. The revenues from the tour boats are shared with everyone; each island owns a large gondola on which they take visitors for another ride at extra cost, and the revenue from that is for the island alone.
The presence of tourists is carefully choreographed. We were welcomed onto the island and seated in a semi-circle, on rolls of reeds. With the assistance of residents, our own tour guide (brought from Puno – a graduate from the Universidad de Puno in tourism and languages) gave us the lecture on the people and the islands. While zoo-like, it didn’t feel terribly uncomfortable, as it was so clear we were being managed. At the end of his talk, the women (all but one man were out fishing or harvesting totora) took a group of tourists to their one-room houses. Then some people went on the gondola ride, while others of us hung around.
It took me quite a while to catch onto the fact that these “floating islands” haven’t existed all that long, apparently only since the 1990s when their lakeshore villages were flooded. I remember photos of reed boats from anthropology books, and they always spent a lot of time on the water. This business of creating islands is new, however, probably somebody’s smart solution to avoiding trespassing, squatting, real estate costs and taxes. They obviously don’t farm (though there are some bushes and marigolds!), but do fish. They barter reed-weaving, embroidery, fish and cut reeds for some of what they need. The proceeds from tourists buy staple foods and pay kids’ school costs.
Travelling through the countryside of Bolivia and Peru, I suddenly realized there were no chimneys. I asked our bus attendant Cristina about that; nope, they just don’t use anything that requires a chimney. There are no heaters; a few people have electric ones. And why no TV antennas? Because cable TV doesn’t require them!
Although I’ve come to think of eucalyptus as rather a nuisance, consuming a great deal of water, driving out native vegetation, in the Andean countries at least it is seen very favourably. It was first brought in the mid-1800s to prevent soil erosion, and eucalyptus forests now cover huge areas where other trees have been logged off. It’s really popular and appreciated for fuel and for construction.
On the outskirts of Cuzco, adobe houses seemed awfully insecure, sitting on steep inclines made of the same mud as they are. Around Puno, it was fairly clear that new housing was being built on old Quechua agricultural terraces. It might be a good rule of thumb: don’t build where the ancestors didn’t think it worthwhile! Leaving Lima, are miles and miles of two storey buildings made of cement blocks. (The commuting time is unimaginable.) Beyond them, houses seem literally built into the hillside, which is nothing but sand. How can they possibly withstand rain? “Pueblos jóvenes” (“young towns”) refers to shanty towns, initially squatter settlements, that have sprung up as a result of newcomers’ need for housing. Great photos and discussion can be found at http://jakelyell.com/2007/08/11/houses-on-the-sand-photographs-from-limas-pueblos-jovenes/ The very last dwellings in town are wall-to-wall plywood shacks.
Small houses /shacks are strung along the dry coast of northern Peru. Totora reeds are tied together to make panels (tabiques) which are fastened to a framework of poles and plastered with mud. This is called “quincha,” and is practical because of earthquake resistance – flexible and light – somewhat insulated, cheap, comfortable, breathable. In the past, foundations and the lower part of the walls of the largest one-storey buildings were often of stone, with quincha and tabique roofs completing them.
There are plenty of large new houses in the hilly regions outside of Cuenca, Ecuador. Built of brick and cement block, multi-storeyed, they stand on hillsides, usually empty, alone and vulnerable. They have beautiful views, no neighbors, and no neighborhood. The U.S. economic crisis prevents the return of the Ecuadorian expats who built them. Anywhere else (?), they’d be narco houses, ostentatious and empty.
Islas flotantes de los uros. (2013, 9 de marzo). Wikipedia, La enciclopedia libre. Fecha de consulta: 01:39, junio 5, 2013 desde http://es.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Islas_flotantes_de_los_uros&oldid=64525333.
Moraga, Nelson (Junio 12, 2013). Las Islas Flotantes de los Uros en el Lago Titicaca; ciudad de aguas. Retreieved July 24, 2013 from http://wiki.ead.pucv.cl/index.php/Las_Islas_Flotantes_de_los_Uros_en_el_Lago_Titicaca;_ciudad_de_aguas
Oh, there were some wonderful empanadas in Patagonia! The first I had were at Estancia Skyring, where the fellow who cooks for the men makes them every Sunday. Fried empanadas with a very tasty meaty filling! The next empanada feast was in the quincho of Armando and Marta in El Calafate, Argentina. These also were fried, the filling using as much lamb meat as onion, thickened with gelatin, mixing in paprika but no cumin, a few raisins and a green olive. We were there with Anne and Mario’s family; Gastón advocated an icing sugar garnish. (I’ve never been able to face that!)
And we used the baked empanadas of the kitchen awarded the “Mejores Empanadas” prize by the municipality of Puerto Natales as travel food. Not as luscious as the previous ones, not fresh-out-of-the fryer, but just great!
There were countless versions of filled pastries all over South America, few of which I tried. On the Copacabana side of Tiquino, Bolivia, I did have a tucumana, an empanada filled with tasty potatoes and hard boiled egg. After breaking it open, I could add hot sauce, peanut sauce, and chopped cucumber – all delicious.
I’d never had pavlova before Cathy made it for us in Punta Arenas. I’ve got to try making it myself! Maybe for Brian’s birthday!
Chilote cuisine has become common and popular. I loved my chicken cazuela, bread and pebre at Raíces de Chiloé, in Natales. At the Mercado Chilote in Punta Arenas, they serve sopaipillas with pebre to begin every meal. Pebre is a mixture of chopped onion, tomato, garlic and herbs. Sopaipillas are a fried bread, usually with squash puré added in. (Sopaipillas can also be eaten sweet, in a syrup made with chancaca – unrefined sugar.)
Wonderful olives are produced in the area between Santiago and Valparaíso, Chile. We visited an olive farm and processor. They had big blue barrels of olives cured in different ways. Those soaked in lijía (lye, or wood ash) have a more firm texture than those cured in soda, but both were really tasty, lacking the bitter or excessively salty flavors of many olives. Delicious.
One of the most common foods at restaurants around Lake Titicaca is “trucha” – farmed trout. These were first brought in from Canada in the 1940s. From Argentina came pejerrey – kingfish – Odontesthes bonariensis. I don’t believe these are farmed.
It’s a great area for fishing rainbow trout, too!
Special sweets are sold streetside in La Paz, Bolivia, for Corpus Christi. Women come into the city from Sucre just to sell their products on this holiday. They were pretty sure I wasn’t buying anything, but were still willing to give me a sample and an answer or two. Roscas are circles of dough – hard like pretzels – dipped in royal icing. Fideos are the shape of canelloni, but are actually sweet dough, dusted with icing sugar. There were walnuts, salted peanuts, and peanuts in brown and red shells.
On tarps and sacks, by the road and on rooftops, were small, dark round things; sometimes, people were stomping on them. These were potatoes being frozen and dried to make chuño. http://swiatoslaw.photoshelter.com/image/I00002bTQ94Cwa2w. Maize, both yellow and white, is dried in a similar way.
It wasn’t until we were very near Cuzco that I saw any agricultural machinery at all – indeed any machinery, period. On the way to Puno I remember seeing some three-wheeled motorcycles pulling utility trailers, but none since. In short, everything is done manually: I have seen threshing, scything, piling into conical stacks, dehydrating maize and potatoes. There is seldom a herd of sheep, guanacos, alpacas or cattle not accompanied by a human, except where ranches are really large and have wire fences. Women are often the tenders, and use a whip to move the livestock. This reminds me of walking a dog – walking the livestock. They often sit on the ground while the animals feed. No wonder so many skirts are needed! The ground is cold!
Although I was ignorant of it, I first began to hear great things about Peruvian cuisine in Punta Arenas.
Peruvian cuisine. (2013, July 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:54, July 24, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Peruvian_cuisine&oldid=565206352
In Lima, I had to appropriate a restaurant menu to look up the dishes to learn what they are. (It’s amazingly difficult to talk about food when ingredients and methods are unfamiliar, and a different vocabulary is used for the familiar!) Tiradito is thinly sliced fish, marinated in lemon etc. Tequeños are cheese fingers deep-fried in wonton wrappers. Chupe de pescado sounds really delicious: http://www.deperu.com/recetas-cocina/receta.php?rec_coc=63 Sudado is fish poached w/ tomatoes, onion, etc. Parihuela is another fish soup. Tacu tacu is rice & beans accompanied by a protein. In a causa, a tasty filling of chicken, fish or vegetables is wrapped in (or sandwiched between) a layer of flavored, mashed potato. See
http://www.wgbh.org/articles/Tarantas-Maine-Lobster-Causa-7135, though I like it best with a yellow sauce: http://perudelights.com/papa-a-la-huancaina/
Chifas, or Chinese restaurants, are very common in the Andes. My “menú fijo” lunch included wonton soup (2 wontons and a piece of chicken and lots of spaghetti noodles in broth, w/ some green onion), and a main course of pork and vegetables with chaufa – fried rice. (In Bolivia, fried rice is a “calentado,” which one can order with a fried egg on top!) The pork was very salty and rather tough, sort of like bacon. The vegetables are OK. Not my favorite meal; glad I tried it. I should have completed the experiment by having an Inca Cola. Again, something I haven’t tried, perhaps because of its pale yellow color, and I don’t much like pop anyway.
And, by the way, Peruvians don’t seem to do sweet.
Likely the most interesting dish I encountered was in Cusco on the first day of Corpus Christi. On the street, a woman had set up shop with a table and cooker, and I realized I was looking at roasted cuy (guinea pigs), estofado de cuy, cuy sausage, cornflour cakes, Andean cheese, chicken (which I didn’t try), cooked, roasted broadbeans and more. I had a small sampling of the whole thing, and then realized it was chiri’uchu, that special dish for today – the Inca dish that was to include foods from each part of the Empire. http://www.google.ca/search?gs_rn=20&gs_ri=psy-ab&pq=catedral+cusco&cp=10&gs_id=1a&xhr=t&q=chiriuchu&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&biw=1280&bih=899&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=pfryUdncM8L_rQGApICgDg
Had a nice lunch at Yola’s, in Cusco. It was just a nice, ordinary restaurant where I had palta a la reina (avocado with chicken salad – really nice avocado) – and seco de cordero con arroz y frejol, i.e. lamb stew with white beans. Quite good.
I’m still puzzling out the origins of plants I think of as Mexican and North American, and was surprised to find in South America – where several of them originated, and were traded north. There is, of course, the nopal – or tuna, as it is called in the south – on which the cochineal grows. In Mexico, the nopal pad (rid of thorns) is eaten either cooked or raw in a salad; in Peru, the fruit (prickly pear) is eaten. (I think they’re from the same plant.) In Mexico, the maguey or agave azul is used to make mescal; not in the south. Algarrobo (mesquite) is in both areas, used to make flour, I believe. The wood also has various uses. Chiles appear to have originated in Bolivia, though various domesticates were developed in Mexico. And I can’t help but wonder why cacao didn’t make it south, or potatoes north. Which beans originated where?
Street food in Cuenca, Ecuador was great fun. A pretty common combination is “pan de yuca y yogur” – a cassava bun with cheese filling, with delicious Greek yogurt. One I couldn’t fit in was grilled banana with cheese. Perhaps it was displaced by the mouth-watering roasted pig, sold at stands at the market. It comes with a bit of skin, on some lettuce and onion, with huge white corn kernels and duchess potatoes. Was it good!
In Quito, humitas are often served here for a light supper: they’re made from fresh-ground corn when it’s young enough to be sweet, and steamed in banana or maize leaves. It’s a muffin equivalent; a common offer is humita + coffee for $1.50. Tamales are similar, but salty. Mixed in with the fluffy corn mix are pieces of olive, egg, etc. Locro de papa is a thick potato soup, colored yellow probably with chile amarillo. In it also goes a slice of mild cheese (like bocconcino) and a slice of palta. http://southamericanfood.about.com/od/appetizersfirstcourses/r/locrodepapa.htm
As in Mexico months ago, one of the most appreciated treats was a container of fresh fruit – in Bogotá, a mango and guayaba cup. Only salt is available to go on the fruit – which is fine, but I did miss Mexico’s lemon juice and chile. A woman in downtown Bogotá sold packages of dismembered big black ants. Eat them like peanuts, she says. I didn’t (unlike chapulines)! I also looked at obleas, which are thin wafers, rather like communion wafers (said the salesman). They’re about 8” in diameter. They can be spread or sprinkled with one or all of arequipe (dulce de leche, manjar blanco, cajete), cheese (I think it’s a very mild cheese; they also put it in hot chocolate. Haven’t had the nerve to try that, either!), blueberry jam, and chopped peanuts. Another wafer goes on top. But I did eat ajíaco bogotano, the city’s specialty. It’s a thick, tasty soup w/ potato and corn (both used as thickener and in pieces) and lots of shredded chicken. It needed a bit of spicing up, and there was a salsa on the side. On a separate plate were a third of a really large avocado, a big scoop of rice, and a fried plantain. Really good, really filling. I had it at La cucharita colombiana.
In Manizales I had an arepa de chocolo – or, rather, de chócolo. The restaurant lacked the accent, so I couldn’t figure out what on earth “chocolo” was. It’s corn kernels. This was a corn patty or pancake (grind corn, add salt, sugar, grated swiss cheese, milk and baking powder, fry in a little oil), in my case w/ some soft cheese on top. They brought me honey to pour over that. It’s pretty good.
I didn’t try too many beverages. I’m always happy to find dark roast coffee, so love the take-out coffee at Santiago’s airport and Juan Valdez in Ecuador and Colombia. Appreciated the Chilean wine in tetrapacks, as it’s good for travel.
However, I was most grateful for the mate de coca – coca tea. The leaves soften up in hot water. The hotels in La Paz and Copacabana had a fresh supply with hot water for newly arriving visitors, and the tea quickly counteracts soroche (or sorojchi – altitude sickness), which often results in dizziness, headache, racing heart, fatigue, nausea. The coca leaves go great in my travel mug, which strains out the leaves before swallowing, and I can keep the drink going all night, plus travel with it all day. I bought my own stash of leaves as soon as I could. http://www.erowid.org/plants/coca/coca_info3.shtml provides a great account of a tourist chewing coca and drinking coca tea, as I did.
Quinoa. (2013, June 11). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:28, June 12, 2013, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Quinoa&oldid=559465413
Amaranth – May grain of the month (n.d.). In Whole grains council. Retrieved June 11, 2013 from http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/amaranth-may-grain-of-the-month-0
National Research Council. Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1989. Retrieved July 28, 2013 from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=1398&page=124
In Patagonia, lots of women today wear what they would have worn fifty years ago: knee-length skirt, cardigan over short-sleeved sweater, knee length wool coat, knitted hat on head, shoes w/ slight heel. So do men: jeans, hand-knitted wool sweater w/ turtleneck, sports jacket or winter jacket. Wool tocque.
A tall man in the heeled boots, the poncho and the flat-brimmed huaso hat of Central Chile is amazingly attractive.
Hats make the woman in the Altiplano, too. In La Paz, whether bowlers or crocheted cylinders (rather like a fez), they’re small, perched way on top of the head. A hatmaker tells me keeping them on is an art. Some of the bowler hats are only slightly shorter than tall hats. Straw hats and crocheted hats can be made in the same shape. He gets the blanks from Argentina, presses them on special moulds and sews on ribbon trim. He’s done it all his life. His son, about 8, sat in the booth stitching jeans by hand – in training? Fascinating article:
Villanueve Rance, Amaru (June 28, 2013). Bowler: sombrero de la paceña. Port magazine. Retrieved July 22, 2013 from http://www.port-magazine.com/fashion/bolivia-sombrero-de-la-pacena/
Chinchero women’s hats are shallow, with a cross design on the crown of the head and a rolled brim. I asked one woman to explain them; she said they’re all symbolic of community and family. I then noticed hers was somewhat different from others; that’s because they also identify social status, i.e. Inca nobility. She being the one different, was nobility, I gather. I didn’t know that nobility would still be recognized; she didn’t want to elaborate. The hats in Rajchi are conical and embroidered. Some worn in Cuzco look like an embroidered cloth has been placed over a board. Oh, to understand the meaning of women’s hats!
In La Paz, skirts are multi-layered, heavily pleated, and colorful. Stores carry racks of shiny satin skirts. Torsos are also covered with many layers. The top layer is a large shawl or cape, knitted or a myriad of crocheted medallions linked together. They’re about the size of our throws or afghans. (In Cuzco, those same fringed wool blankets are wrapped around the hips to become wool skirts, over trousers.) Folded in half, the folded corners are pinned in front of the chest. The back is well-covered, the hands free. It’s not easy to tell the relationship between the volume of clothing and of the body. Plumpness can only be estimated by a quick glimpse of ankle or neck.
Indigenous women wear flat, slip-on shoes, like slippers or ballet shoes. They move quickly, constantly trotting up and down hills. Mestiza women wear heels! Mestizo men wear shoes that get polished often. The shoe-shiners are young men, who sit on curbs or low benches with shoe platforms in front of them. Their occupational uniform is a face-covering balaclava.
The skirt of indigenous women in Quito is almost ankle-length and straight, really a length of fabric wrapped around the body and held up by a colorful faja. The short-sleeved blouse is embroidered. A few women wear a shawl folded on top of the head; many wear sweaters. Shoes are low heeled and black. Most wear just one braid, not the two linked at the back as in the Sierra. They wear their shawls covering the chest.
As was explained by a market vendor, the skirts worn by women of communities in the Cuenca region are of stretch velvet, some of duffle. They’re pleated, with an embroidered hem. Whether it’s edged in VVVVS or scallops is an indicator of community. To do the hand embroidery, the hem is faced with checked gingham and with newspaper to hold it stiff. Only afterwards is the hem cut. Some communities are identified by a subtle, small embroidery; others, much larger. Beads and sequins are often included, attached with lengths of colored thread on the inside of the hem. The weighted hem creates a heavy and very graceful skirt that swings with every step.
There is also a really stiff, reinforced yoke at the waist, and often a horizontal fold to shorten the skirt. It can be removed. The side seams are open to about 7” below the waistband to allow for expansion. A wide ribbon is stitched into the waistline on the front, and another on the back. These are tied together at the sides to fit the wearer, pregnant or whatever! Before purchase, skirts are tightly bundled into tubes with a thread going through each of the pleats at hem and at waist. That’s cut to open it out.
I mostly saw women in sweaters, but the costume features a short-sleeved blouse, traditionally embroidered. The final piece is a rebozo, often variegated to start with, and with really fancy embroidered and/or crocheted or macramé additions at each end. To attend a wedding, women will go without a lot to buy an outfit!
Indigenous women wear simple variations of this every day, and all cuencanas wear them for special occasions. At the fiestas de pueblo, guests are stuffed with food: a thick soup, then beans and corn, then meat, then chicken. “You have to eat as much as you can!” says the market woman. If you’re a madrina, you’re likely to be sent home with huge pots of food. That’s hosts’ way of showing their care for you (and their wealth).
Years ago, “our grandfathers” used to carry heavy loads on their backs like women do, wrapped in aguayos/awayos or mantas. Diagonally-opposed corners are tied together over the load, the load is swung onto the back, then the other two corners are tied around the chest. (More modern men carry heavy loads on one shoulder – or at least, that’s how cab drivers carry my suitcase over a rough sidewalk. That’s hard to watch, for a block or so, especially if uphill!)
It was easy for me to feel comfortable in Lima, foreign but not strange. The Miraflores area is very prosperous and new, with everyone in modern dress. Lima definitely consists of urban mestizos. No cholos or Indians here, at least where I’ve been. I’ve seen one woman with a braid – one braid! Everyone else in skirts, shirts, blue jeans, heels, short hair, and absolutely no one knitting in public. No mantas, and no babies on the back. Similarly, I couldn’t see ethnically distinct clothing in Chiclayo, Perú. And by the time I reached Medellín, Colombia, standard outfits included skin-tight leggings, lots of cleavage in tops, and glittery flip-flops! Guys look pretty ordinary.
It’s interesting to see the sexual aggression of women, especially in Patagonia. In public places, e.g. restaurants and the like, they are often the ones staring into their partner’s eyes, caressing, stroking, initiating kissing – behavior I usually associate w/ Latin men. Is this emancipation or an indicator of men’s superior earning power?
This is completely different from La Paz and all of the Altiplano, where I saw no public necking by couples at all – except by tourists. There’s was no visible sex tourism, in fact very little mixing of foreigners and locals.
There were many warnings about pickpockets and muggings in La Paz. That had me somewhat nervous, especially about withdrawing money from ATMs, but I never actually experienced anything threatening. I did notice that no one carried or used cameras or cell phones in the street.
There’s a whole lot of life happens in the street, women with their children, people sleeping, eating all the time. I saw a man relieving himself on the street outside the hostel: Las Aromas street, ironically! A man must be really desperate to squat at a curb in public, with cars and people going by.
I went into a store to look around. Usually, the store attendant immediately follows a person in. This time, a woman sat occupying the whole doorway. She had a bowl of water, and washed her hands and face, drying them with her apron. Then she took out a small mirror to do the last primping. I hesitated, as I wasn’t sure she’d seen me, but then realized she was not going to be embarrassed by me, so I stepped over her.
People seriously duck, scramble and stop in their tracks to stay out of a photograph. I haven’t seen anyone but tourists using a camera. The museums were full of kids, but none took photos; few museums even allow it. I was very glad to find a couple of great picture books today. Like in the Pueblos of the American Southwest, even in art, people are usually portrayed from the back, if at all.
I snuck a few more pictures elsewhere. Kids on the beaches of Copacabana are darling, partly because they’re all hatted against the sun. One 2 or 3-year old had her sweater tied around her shoulders such that her stuffed bear was held just as a baby in a manta on her mother’s back would be! How soon we learn to imitate!
I heard applause outside the door of the Copacabana Cathedral. Some people gathered outside as others emerged. “A wedding!” I thought. A circle was formed, and everyone took turns hugging all those in the receiving line and dumping confetti over their heads, but I could see no bride. It turned out to be a woman who’s just earned her architect’s degree and her relatives. A sign clearly forbids “mistura” (confetti), but as a guard commented to others, that’s just how it’s done here, and you can’t stop tradition.
One of the best parts of travelling by bus is the chance to see people going about their lives, walking, working, playing, sitting and talking. It was remarkable how often couples went about their tasks together. From the motorboat travelling up the shore of Isla del Sol, frequently I could see people (usually women) herding sheep or llamas. They also raise pigs and burros. They worked on the terraces, which are used to grow a couple of types of potatoes, two or three types of quinoa, several kinds of corn and broad beans. Women washed clothes (mantas, rectangular pieces of woven textile in various colors), laying them out to dry on the beach, on fences or on bushes.
At the Uro island, we were hosted by one young man and half a dozen women. He asked me some questions, so I sat down (lay down) with him, three women and a couple of kids so we could exchange questions and answers. He was not at all in charge of this group! (To the contrary; he was being scolded by one of the women for not going fishing with the rest of the men.) I asked about bowler hats – which do fall off – and about braid holders (bonbones). These are braid extensions or weights that hold a woman’s braids behind her back rather than swinging around and getting in the way. The color of the bonbón indicates the woman’s marital status. Black means married, yellow means not. They wanted to know about my work, salary, children, marital status, and religion. I said I earn a lot, but have to work a lot – and that it’s very unfair I can come here but they can’t go there. All I had to give them was some gum and mints.
The women are quite used to being with tourists, and do seem to be curious. They asked if I’d seen photos of them elsewhere, if they were famous. Of course! There was very much a feeling of exchange between us; they were glad I’d given them candy and gum, as I hadn’t bought anything from them. And they seem to have accepted the indignity of being photographed, for the benefits it brings in terms of increased cash from tourists.
El Octavo de Corpus Christi (the eighth day of Corpus Christi) was being celebrated in Cuzco. I found a second-storey Starbucks, drank coffee and took some photos out the window. There were crowds of people on steps of the Cathedral platform. Saints’ images were carried around the Plaza de Armas on the shoulders of bearers; musicians wore matching outfits. (The procession of Saints may be a modern version of the precolonial procession of Inka mummies. There is a complex series of events in which the effigies, each from its home church, are brought in procession to the Cathedral, where they spend the week of Corpus Christi together. At the end of the week, they say goodbye to each other and are carried back home. What I was seeing came from the latter end of the ceremonies.)
When San Sebastián was being returned to his church, it required the presence of numerous dancing groups and their respective bands. It’s amazing how many people are involved! A lot of these were dressed in “Native Indian” costumes. Much money goes into the outfits, matching shoes, etc., and much time goes into choreography and practice. The procession slowly moves down street, and I just wish they got a lot more applause. The men perform energetic dances with lots of leaping, alternating with a quieter step. Older men are more skilled; little kids get applause. The girls are separate, and their steps involve a lot of hip motion and swinging to move skirts. Longer crinolines are used by some; really short ones over shorts are used by others. There’s a good deal of cleavage and bare skin. It’s wonderful stuff. Identification of people w/ their church, neighborhood and saint is apparently really strong. Many apply to form part of the bands and dance groups, but not all are accepted. Tourists were thrilled. I tend to get a bit irritated with them, as their cameras give them the “right” to stand in the middle of the street, blocking participants and spectators.
June is Cuzco’s month, as Corpus Christi is followed by San Juan and Inti Raymi, then San Pedro and San Pablo. Thousands of people with their work groups and school groups parade before authorities. Many were dressed in cultural costumes – crinolines, ponchos, etc. Some danced. Most carried banners. The anthropologists wore suits!
I’m amazed at how many hairdressers, barbers, tailors, laundries and shoe shiners there are. I expect that, like cooking meals, it’s less expensive to buy goods and services from those who have the equipment and produce them in large quantities than to do it oneself – especially for people who put in very long hours making what someone else needs.
Five prisoners escaped custody. Two were associated with an armed robbery. Three were involved in the assassination of journalist Luis Wong. After appearing at a courtroom, they apparently changed into women’s clothing, and left through an administration area. Police are thought to have been involved; several are suspended. Two of the assassins were killed by police in a shootout a week or so later.
There is a parking lot in downtown Cuenca where men gather to await labor recruiters and swarm any vehicle that drives in. Unemployment must be significant. A man stretched out his blankets and made himself a bed on the sidewalk across the street from my hostel room in Quito, against the wall of the gymnasium. The street lights were bright enough to read by. I wondered why he picked that spot, and whether police would allow him to stay. Was he avoiding being mugged? The further north I went, the more common it was to see men passed out on city sidewalks.
Although I entered plenty of churches, I couldn’t bring myself to look around very much. Photography is generally not allowed, and people seem very devout, crossing themselves frequently and curtsying on the way in, and when passing by. There were usually many people, men and women, praying on their own.
I’m not sure why, but particularly on the highway from Trujillo to Chiclayo, what I most noticed was trash. Landfills are not over the hill and out of sight, nor is garbage dumped into a hole in the ground. Instead, there are acres of trash piles scattered across the countryside to blow away. It’s awful.
I asked at tourist information in Chiclayo why there were so many money changers on the street; they seem to be constantly counting thick bundles of currency. It was explained that one can shave off the service fees by not going to the bank, and a lot of people receive remittances from abroad. There is a lot of “dirty money” around, and there would be questions asked (or at least a record) if one went to the bank frequently or with a great deal of cash.
I’ve been caught several times by holidays where I’ve been visiting, e.g. Labor Day, Corpus Christi, Inti Raymi, Saint John the Baptist, and Saint Peter/Saint Paul, sometimes limiting my movement (or meals!). I think it was surprising to me because, in Canada, we recognize almost no religious holidays. My ethnocentrism: if I don’t observe it, it doesn’t exist. A couple of middle-class Colombians complained that people are demanding more statutory holidays in the year, when there are already 18-20. I too thought that was a bit much, until I realized that workers only have one day off a week!
At the museum of the Dominican cloistered nuns of Santa Catalina (Museo Monacal Santa Catalina de Siena) in Quito, I was escorted by a serious young man who knew all his liturgy and church history. Like the museum of the nunnery in Cuenca – Concepta – this one included items for dressing small images of saints, the Virgin, Jesus and for creating nativity scenes. Adults like to play dolls. Shops in Cuenca sell sweet European baby boy dolls of all sizes and many outfits to choose from, in brilliant colors, embroidery, sequins, beads, little shoes, for altars and processions, I assume.
Funny how we’re fascinated by miniatures. The convent guide said that, in their homes, most people now have a nativity scene (huge and complex scenarios, bringing in elements from all over the world) as well as a Christmas tree – one religious, the other secular. Apparently we’re also fascinated by human remains. The body of a President assassinated in 1875 was hidden in the Santa Catalina convent until 1975, and they still have some of his possessions, including a bone. A femur, I think.
On Sundays, Quito’s Plaza Grande is a place to practice and enjoy oratory. A whole lot of it is religious, mostly evangelical. Preachers heckle each other. The biggest crowd was drawn by a street theatre group. I couldn’t find out what they were about, however, because whenever I was nearby they were asking for money or challenging the vendors (who move in to take advantage of a crowd) to stick around to clean up the plaza. One man proclaimed that Hugo Chávez lives in all of us. I wish I had more nerve for taking photos of people! Indigenous women wore sparkly blouses. Pairs of older men visited quietly. Lots of pololeos – courting couples. There were more Afro-Ecuadorians around than usual, selling coconut water. This is an ethnic specialization; a part-time job on Sundays.
In Bolivia and Peru, Chola women carry babies in a manta (aguayo) on their backs (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROZma0qbN3M). Urban and mestizo women (i.e. not chola) do not. They carry them on their hip or in front. City women put their baby in a stroller w/ a plastic window, distancing themselves from the child. Tourists push the VW bug-sized strollers. Indigenous women in Ecuador use a large square cloth to tie in their babies. The baby is placed on the woman’s back, tied on tightly with the top two corners of the sheet. The bottom two corners wrap around the mother’s body and tie under the kid’s bum. Mestizos carry the baby wrapped in blankets in front of their bodies, using both hands.
Bolivian Express is an interesting English-language publication, online, edited by Villanueve. http://www.bolivianexpress.org/
Celebración del Corpus Christi en el Cuzco. (2013, 20 de marzo). Wikipedia, La enciclopedia libre. Fecha de consulta: 02:51, junio 9, 2013 desde http://es.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Celebraci%C3%B3n_del_Corpus_Christi_en_el_Cuzco&oldid=65477187.
We did not like the dogs in Punta Arenas, although we were initially amused at the pack roaming around the Plaza de Armas on Labor Day, May 1. A holiday, there were almost no other people around. The dogs weren’t at all threatening until one jumped onto the bench between us. From then on, they surrounded us, quarrelling with each other, deciding who would own us. We crossed the street to a Carabinero (policeman) who had his own dog, and thus broke contact. No wonder Puntarenenses joke that you have to get permission from the dogs to go to the Plaza now! In fact, there are packs all over town, and I’d beware of wandering in deserted areas.
I do so enjoy the wildlife of Patagonia. It’s a thrill to see flamingo shades of pink and black in lagoons in the windy pampas of the south – and then in Bolivia as well! I thought of condors in the mountains, the Andes, further north, but now find they’re quite common down south as well. I remember the black-necked swans with their red beaks in the waters near Puerto Natales from years ago – still delightful. Plenty of vultures and small eagles and other birds of prey are on fence posts and in the air. Ubiquitous are the ostriches – ñandúes or avestruces. On the continental grasslands, every other lump is an ostrich, but not on Tierra del Fuego! The rest are sheep and guanacos. Guanacos are as common as deer at dusk in Alberta, definitely not endangered, definitely graceful. They compete with the sheep. Along the shoreline are cormorants, grebes, gulls, and ducks w/ orange bills and feet.
There are lots of sheep, grass and fences. We faced a large sheep drive on our way to Isla Riesco – a wide river of them, bounding towards us. They were accompanied by three horsemen, I think, with a sheepdog each. One dog fought his way through the fence wires, madly scrambling to get back to work. Then there was a huge herd of cattle, again being driven towards us. One cowboy led them and several brought up the rear. Beautiful polled Herefords. The grass looks rich. Fences along the roads are sturdy, 5-6 rows of wire, tight and tall.
We had the treat of one spectacular morning on the Straits of Magellan. We drove south with the sun shining from behind our backs, as it always must, all the way to Fuerte Bulnes. When we saw splashing in the water, we stopped to watch dolphins hunting. It was so calm, clear and quiet it hurt.
Moving north through South America, there were burros, goats, sheep and pigs. Oxen pull plows in some areas. The milk and meat of cattle must make them the most valuable livestock, because they displace all other animals whenever possible. However, llama herds increase in size at the higher altitudes to which they’re adapted. (They’re the descendants of guanacos!)
Lama Guanicoe. Retrieved May 16, 2013 from http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/11186/0
I’d forgotten the Cueva del Milodón was a site of prehistoric human occupation as well as the cave where milodon remains were found. Some twenty kilometers from Puerto Natales, the landscape is dramatic, broad plains (once ocean bottom) ringed by bluffs and snowy mountains, the autumn foliage up the hillsides in varied shades of green, orange, yellow and red. The cave is huge, befuddling the senses. It reminds me of a huge hockey arena, where those on the opposite side look much smaller than one thinks they should because sound carries so well. The large boulders scattered outside, the Silla del Diablo and the hill into which the Cueva is inserted, were all made by compression of rock under the ocean, with some layers of sand. The ocean then removed the layer of sand inside the hill, leaving the cave to be inhabited by milodon and humans.
Cueva del Milodón Natural Monument. (2013, March 1). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:15, July 31, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cueva_del_Milod%C3%B3n_Natural_Monument&oldid=541501774
There is a great deal for me to learn about South American agricultural and water management systems. The chinampas of central Mexico come to mind first, created by digging up lakebed sediment and shaping it into islands of fertile soil. An entire landscape can be an archeological site. In South America, agriculture and the modification of land forms and water flow has gone on so long and so extensively that evidence of these human activities is everywhere.
Camellones (waru waru) might be called raised beds or raised earth platforms and could be as much as 4 meters across. They were used, for example, in regions of northern Colombia and also around Lake Titicaca. (Still are, somewhat.) Channels are dug perpendicular to or fanning out from rivers, creating island strips between them (the camellones). Water fills the channels, and aquatic plants and animals (fish) growing between islands help with water purification and fertilization. Plants on the raised beds grow down (to get to water) rather than out, so take less space, making less room for weeds and more room for crops. The water between beds also reduces crawling insects. When waters recede, the sediment is dug out to add onto the islands. Currently, northern Colombia suffers from destructive yearly floods (rather like the Canadian prairies); in the past, the water spread out in an organized fashion and irrigated more land without flooding the islands on which people lived and cultivated. This method makes use of high water rather than fighting it. See the video El tejido del agua about the Zenú water management system, at http://vimeo.com/12811886
Qochas are naturally-occurring or man-made depressions in the highlands, lagoons that collect rainwater. Their sides are cultivated as water recedes.
Many of these systems, the infrastructure, knowledge and labor organization required to maintain them were abandoned with Spanish colonization and population loss. Bringing them back into use requires some caution; productive land must be re-allocated to either communal or family tenure, with regard to the organization of labor needed to bring it back into production. (See references below.)
As we got near Lake Titicaca, most hillsides were terraced, and dividing lines (stone walls) cut vertically across the terraces. Some terraces have been in use for centuries. They manage water as much as slope.
The trip up to Cha’llapampa and back followed the shore of Isla del Sol, on Lake Titicaca. Often it was plain rocky but terraces were built wherever feasible many centuries ago – as far back as 1500 BC, said the guide. Terraces are cultivated for four years, then “we, the community” leave them fallow for seven years prior to replanting, using different slopes each time. The containing walls are built of angular basalt rock (I think) that tends to hold itself in place. Large rocks are placed on the sloped bedrock, gravel on that, and soil on top of that, until level. I expect that fields are allocated by the community in such a way that everyone has access to the products of different solar exposures, precipitation and altitudes. The labor to maintain terrace walls and the archeological site of Chincana would have to be shared communally as well.
Guided by a community employee, we took a long walk from the boat landing, passing through the village and by people’s back yards. Then we were beyond the cultivated area and walking through rock. It was pretty strenuous, with not as much time for stopping, looking and photographing as I’d have liked. There were lots of views overlooking the water and other islands, and to snow-capped mountains further away. We stepped in the Footsteps of the Sun, and saw the Puma de Piedra and medicine wheels before reaching Chincana, a multi-roomed structure built of stone walls, a temple, and some dwellings. The whole Island of the Sun seems carefully guarded by its communities. Entry fees are charged, and the presence of outsiders is fairly carefully monitored, restricted to certain hours; I don’t think it would be possible to get away with a lot of vandalism. Our guide spoke some of Aymara/Tiwanaku spirituality, of Inti Raymi ceremonies on June 21, the sacrifice of a llama, etc. He made it clear the Inca were intruders who weren’t here for long.
Isla del Sol. (2013, February 26). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:49, July 24, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Isla_del_Sol&oldid=540443944
On the bus trip from Puno to Lima, Peru, the best stop was at the archeological site of Raqchi. It’s Inca, though the site was inhabited previous to the empire. It has a huge temple (to Viracocha, it’s said) with a dividing wall down the center. This was originally 15m. high, and eleven great big pillars run in a line parallel to each side of that (twenty-two in total). The base of all of these, a good metre high, is basalt blocks; adobe brick tops that for the many meters more. One of the pillars survives intact. The center wall is now sheltered by metal roofing so it doesn’t disintegrate. Through the wall are windows and doors; some of the latter look keyhole shaped to me, while the windows are trapezoidal. Beyond the temple are six courtyards surrounded by “apartments” (as they’re apparently domestic areas) with six niches on the long wall of each. Sometimes the courtyards have piles of basalt rock; recovered rock, perhaps? There are more walled structures along one side, and outside that, the bases of at least twenty cylindrical silos. Some of these have been reconstructed – and it’s not clear how much.
The steps up and down, the compartments, the parallel long building all reminded me of Teotihuacán. Outside the reconstructed part are huge piles of basalt blocks. This took me back to Hawaii. Given all this construction material close at hand, it makes perfect sense to have a trade, storage and ceremonial center here. (Why isn’t the stone used in the region now, other than to build fences?) Seems to me there are also some water works involved here.
Sacsayhuamán is a gigantic set of terraces on top of a hill, a great place from which to observe Cusco. Carbon dating pretty much fixes the sites in the 1400s, so it’s definitely Inca; the effort that went into the meticulous stone work also confirms that it was for imperial purposes, perhaps religious, not just secular. Thousands of people attend Inti Raymi ceremonies on the great open field below the terraces. Tourists are all over the site.
Saksaywaman. (2013, June 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:08, July 26, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Saksaywaman&oldid=560147316
We also went to Tambomachay, a place of lovely running water on top of another hill on the outskirts of Cusco. The guide states that the flow of water never increases with rain or decreases with drought; they don’t know how it gets up there, or where it comes from.
The Chinchero archeological remains are on a hill, as usual, the rooms and terraces overlooking great agricultural land, with mountains in the distance. The guide made a couple of really good observations. For one, the Inca built their large-scale works in places where agriculture would not be good – i.e. atop steep hillsides. Secondly, they did not bring in all the stone; they made use of what was there and often modified it on the spot without moving it at all. (On this, he referred in particular to the 30 ton monstrosity at Sacsayhuamán [here pronounced Sacseyhuamán].) Smaller ones are moved but no further than necessary. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the construction site weren’t chosen because of rock available, in part.) He also thinks there’s no such thing as the “Temple to the Moon” or “Temple to the Sun.” These names were made up by guidebooks, he figures. Worship of the Sun and the Moon was so obvious, significant and universal that to restrict their observance to particular places would make no sense (rather like a Christian “Temple to God”.) Instead, temples were places where icons, artifacts and mummies could be kept and cared for.
We went to the Catholic Iglesia Nuestra Señora de Monserrat, built on the foundation of an Inca temple (for a change). It’s lovely inside, ornate and artistic. Seated on benches on the way into the church was a little girl, all in white, who was being baptised. I asked permission for a photo, but an older woman (Grandma?) said I’d have to pay! $20! Too much, I said, and walked on. The priest approached the church, took a photo of a tourist couple for them, went in, and came back out. At least four tour groups were in the church at that time. I wondered whether the locals ever have the place to themselves. We and all the other tour groups walked all over the village, whose streets are mostly too narrow for cars. The streets run up and down and crosswise, are paved w/ paving stones, and have a drainage ditch going down the center. I’d love to know whether this is colonial!
Also in the Sacred Valley of the Incas (so it is said), in the Cusco vicinity, is the breathtaking, inspiring site of Ollantaytambo, many terraces high. The views and surrounding mountains constantly change with the light. The salesladies did a brisk trade in rain ponchos when we first arrived, convincing people it would be more than just a sprinkle, which it wasn’t. Both here and at Chinchero, the terraces (3-4 m. wide) overlook a large plaza. (I was kind of surprised it hadn’t been appropriated for a soccer field in Chinchero, being right by the church!) At Ollantaytambo, the plaza was far wider, an enormous amphitheater. (Or so it appears to me, although we’re told terraces were used for gardening.) There was evidence of modification to lots of boulders in situ, one with steps cut into it, going to a rough boulder top. This ceremonial center had not been finished when the Spanish came. (I’d be surprised if anything was actually “finished,” because the Inca were only in power for a century or so. And most monuments are works in progress.)
There are some features adopted from Tiwanaku. One was huge rectangular sheets of rock propped upright, with slim rock jams wedged between them. The jams are one of several methods of earthquake proofing. Each rock sheet rubs against the small ones which take the shock, rather than directly on another sheet. Then there’s the inward tilt of walls, propping each other up. Stones are sometimes fitted together by interlocking hollows and protuberances, but I don’t know if that’s always the case. Whether the face of the rock wall is ground flat or each rock is ground into a pillow shape, the uniformity achieved is amazing. There are also projections left on the outside of some building blocks; the guide says no one knows why. Niches are a feature of many walls, and they could well have held statuary or something. It is also thought they release some of the energy from earthquakes, by creating irregularities in the surface to break the force. Doors and windows are wider at the bottom than at the top for greater stability.
Ollantaytambo, Peru. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciJgYXbnGsE
Between Lima and Trujillo I spotted a number of roadside ruins. It’s one of those “This looks like a good place for. . . Oh yeah, sure enough!” Blocks of adobe brick. This far north, where it’s so dry, there’s no need to cap an adobe wall. Rains are very infrequent. El Niño hits about once every 12-15 years, and then it really pours, cleaning up everything and necessitating loads of repairs.
Our tour from Trujillo, Peru took us first to the Huacas de Moche. (“Huaca” means sacred, sometimes a sacred place, often translated as “temple”.) First, the Huaca de la Luna. It has five levels, i.e. it was filled in and built over four times, every hundred years or so. I don’t know how, but archeologists seem to have removed fill for each of several layers, which allows construction to be observed, as well as the wonderfully carved and painted faces. I couldn’t follow a lot of what the guide said. I wasn’t sure whether superstructures were built over the top of previous layers, or whether these layers were filled in and the next superimposed. Often, bricks were laid in approximate 2m wide vertical rectangles, like columns. This was seismic resistant, each column being independent of those next to it. The Huaca de la Luna is relatively small, and has been excavated more than the Huaca del Sol. (Who knows when, how or by whom their names were assigned?) https://www.google.ca/search?gs_rn=20&gs_ri=psy-ab&tok=SfrOwR8j9HpvFRJeEYipjQ&pq=huaca+de+la+luna&cp=11&gs_id=16&xhr=t&q=huacas+de+moche&rlz=1C2AFAB_enCA452&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&biw=1241&bih=593&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=s6T1Ub2ZCMjPiwKDnICoBw
This archeological site and the excavation of the Huacas is financed by a private foundation, not by the Peruvian government. “They just collect the entrance fee.” Moche locals are hired for much of the excavation. Pottery sherds were scattered all over the ground. I was really tempted to take some!
Chan Chan (of the Chimu) covers a huge expansive area. I can’t imagine what a more thorough tour would look like. We were at the Huaca del Arcoiris, so-called because many of its decorations are rainbows. It’s been extensively reconstructed.
The Santuario Histórico Bosque del Pómac (Pomac Forest Historical Sanctuary) near Chiclayo is extraordinary; it’s a dry equatorial forest, full of algarrobo (mesquite) and other such vegetation. A couple of cool birds: a flashing red one, which could be a vermillion flycatcher (That’s a throwback to Tucson!), a yellow hummingbird (which I didn’t see), and an orange bird that spends time on the ground but builds a nest of mud in the trees.
I loved walking up the Huaca Las Ventanas, within the historical sanctuary. If I understood correctly, these adobe structures are basically a landfill faced with adobe bricks. The landfill is isand and soil mixed w/ shells and ceramic sherds! The Huaca del Oro, or Huaca de Loro, is not open to the public due to important archeological finds. Izumi Shimada is the Japanese archeologist who has headed up most of the excavation here; the government of Japan has been instrumental.
Near Cuenca, Ingapirca is the largest archeological site in Ecuador. It was described to Europeans in the 1730s by Charles Marie de la Condamine, of the French Geodesic Expedition. The Expedition was in South America to locate the Equator. Much of the Inca site had been filled with dirt, and stone had been removed for local construction, so that only a small portion remained revealed, a rounded structure soon termed “El Castillo.” Archeologists have excavated, mapped, and restored lots of it. There’s been a good deal of scrubbing to clean mold off surfaces of green rock.
Ingapirca, Ecuador. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omxqExsr3s0
One of the more interesting features is the melding of Inca right-angled construction with the curves and ellipses of the Cañari, the region’s inhabitants, who were matrilineal. Much of Ingapirca is built on top of their structures, but some are a combination.
The site is interpreted as an important tambo and trade center on the Inca road, one particularly favored by Inca rulers. Climate and location are gorgeous after the six month trip walking north from Cuzco (!). It’s almost always green and growing season. Rain is heavier at some times of year, but never excessive. Potatoes can be planted pretty much year-round, and there is corn and quinoa. There are lots of cattle today on lush pastures. Some see it as primarily a ceremonial center, with baths for the Inca to be purified before ceremonies, living quarters for the virgins tending to him and the festivals, and the grounds used for lodging and feeding people attending ceremonies. (I do find the obsession with “temples” and “virgins” a bit irksome.) It was a team from Spain that began the excavation of Ingapirca in the 1970s.
Between Cuenca’s Museum of the Banco Central and the Tomebamba River, several hundred feet below, is the archeological site, Parque Arqueológico Tomebamba. Some of the Inca walls of the Tomebamba site are at street level at the top of the river bank. These are storage areas, barracks, and the kancha (“plaza”). Wide terraces cross cut the hill to river level. Close to the river an area has been transformed into a garden and wetland – likely by the Incas, though perhaps it didn’t look quite like today. https://www.google.ca/search?q=parque+arqueologico+tomebamba&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.49784469,d.aWc,pv.xjs.s.en_US.MpiVkF51mpA.O&biw=1280&bih=899&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=4tb2UaC_B4fuyQG_wYCoAg
Camellón (agricultura). (2013, 3 de julio). Wikipedia, La enciclopedia libre. Fecha de consulta: 21:59, julio 23, 2013 desde http://es.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Camell%C3%B3n_(agricultura)&oldid=68100713.
Painter, James (2009). Bolivians look to ancient farming. BBC News. Retrieved July 23, 2013 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8187866.stm
Elliott, Jo (2012). Bolivia revives camellones to increase food production. Retrieved July 23, 2013 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/video/2012/jun/22/rio20-bolivia-camellones-food-video
Waru Waru, a cultivation and irrigation system used in flood-prone areas of the Altiplano (n.d.) Unesco. Retrieved July 23, 2013 from http://www.unesco.org/most/bpik19-2.htm
Denevan, William M. (2001). Cultivated landscapes of Native Amazonia and the Andes. Oxford University Press. http://books.google.ca/books?id=X8j4aUUiU_4C&dq=qochas&source=gbs_navlinks_s
Erickson, C. (1988) Raised Field Agriculture in the Lake Titicaca Basin: Putting Ancient Andean Agriculture Back to Work. Expedition.Vol. 30(3):8-16, special volume edited by Karen Mohr Chavez on Andean Archaeology, The University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Retrieved July 23, 2013 from http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~cerickso/articles/Exped.pdf
Erickson, C.L. (2000). The Lake Titicaca Basin: A Pre-Columbian Built Landscape. In Imperfect Balance: Landscape Transformations in the Precolumbian Americas. edited by David Lentz, pp. 311-356.Columbia University Press, New York. Retrieved July 23, 2013 from http://www.sas.upenn.edu/anthro/system/files/EricksonLentzvol.pdf
Treacy, John M. (1987). Building and Rebuilding Agricultural Terraces in the Colca Valley of Peru. Retrieved July 23, 2013 from http://sites.maxwell.syr.edu/clag/Yearbook1987/treacy.htm
Pardo, Julián (n.d.). Rediscovering America: Peru Chavin Art. Retrieved August 3, 2013 from http://www.rediscovering-america.com/
Racchi. (2013, 9 de abril). Wikipedia, La enciclopedia libre. Fecha de consulta: 00:56, junio 5, 2013 desde http://es.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Racchi&oldid=66121399
Raqchi (n.d.). In Arqueología del Peru. Retrieved June 4, 2013 from http://www.arqueologiadelperu.com.ar/raqchi.htm
Ollantaytambo. (2013, June 19). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:35, July 27, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ollantaytambo&oldid=560558529
Inca architecture. (2013, May 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:35, June 9, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Inca_architecture&oldid=556069779
Huaca de la Luna. (2013, March 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:14, July 28, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Huaca_de_la_Luna&oldid=544276585
Huaca del Sol. (2013, February 26). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:14, July 28, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Huaca_del_Sol&oldid=540440601
Chan Chan. (2013, 11 de junio). Wikipedia, La enciclopedia libre. Fecha de consulta: 14:33, junio 15, 2013 desdehttp://es.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chan_Chan&oldid=67604953.
Netherly, Patricia J. 1984 The management of late Andean irrigation systems on the north coast of Peru. American Antiquity 49(2):227-254.
Izumi Shimada. (2013, April 3). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:37, June 17, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Izumi_Shimada&oldid=548443404
Discovering the Sicán. Izumi Shimada. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I__1_7xwYIQ
Dr. Carlos Elera Arévalo (n.d.) El dorado de Lambayeque y la ruta de los ancestros reales de Sicán. Retrieved June 16, 2013 from http://www.bcrp.gob.pe/docs/Proyeccion-Institucional/Encuentros-Regionales/2008/Lambayeque/EER-Lambayeque-Elera.pdf
Cañari. (2013, March 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:09, June 21, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ca%C3%B1ari&oldid=544496670
Quinde Pichisaca, Isidoro (Marzo 2001). Historia del pueblo Cañari. Revista Yachaikuna. Retrieved July 29, 2013 from http://icci.nativeweb.org/yachaikuna/1/quinde.pdf
Ingapirca. (2013, 8 de marzo). Wikipedia, La enciclopedia libre. Fecha de consulta: 01:53, junio 20, 2013 desde http://es.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ingapirca&oldid=64491351.
“Las ruinas de Ingapirca fueron excavadas y restauradas por una Misión Arqueológica de España entre los años 1974 y 1975. Esas investigaciones dieron origen a varias publicaciones de los arqueólogos José Alcina, Miguel Rivera y Antonio Fresco.”
Punta Arenas has a much-photographed monument in the Plaza de Armas – the one with the Ona, whose toe one must rub. But the largest “monument” in the city is the cemetery, with many rows of well-kept tombs and carefully pruned cedars.
On the walls of the History Café are great old photos and gadgets. Fernando Calcutta is fascinated by Punta Arenas history to about 1918; he hosts Mi Antigua Punta Arenas on Facebook, with photos and comments of people and buildings. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuWVgt7oQVo) He’s also doing a new version of Canto a Magallanes, a regionalist musical. The Café is frequented by “old guys” – people I’m sure I know, but can’t place or remember. He’s a staunch Regionalist, feeling Magallanes was in great shape until the national gov’t came in.
Along Argentine highways are blood-red shrines. They honor Gauchito Gil:
Gauchito Gil. (2013, April 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:43, May 13, 2013, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gauchito_Gil&oldid=550638504
The Museo Marítimo / Museo del Presidio of Ushuaia is located in what was a prison for political prisoners (i.e. anarchists) and repeat offenders from the rest of the country. It operated with up to 600 prisoners, many of them used for free labor, until Perón closed it in 1947. It was given to the navy in 1950. There are five wings to the prison, each w/ 2 storeys. One wing is dedicated to the prison itself, although there is plenty of maritime stuff, too. There were several workshops – printing, bakery, wood carving – some outside of the prison itself, e.g. logging. The prisoners themselves built the prison. Another wing is older Ushuaia history, a room (cell) for Croats, another for Italians, the Lawrence family, etc.
On the waterfront in Ushuaia is a small museum telling the story of the float plane flights and crash of Gunther Plüschow in Lago Argentino and the sinking of the Monte Cervantes cruise ship in the 1920s. No one died, but they were stuck in incredibly cold water, and had to walk a fair distance to get back to Ushuaia!
SS Monte Cervantes. (2013, April 25). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:42, May 14, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=SS_Monte_Cervantes&oldid=552160913
Santiago, Chile has some great exhibits. The Museo Histórico Dominico has sparkling silver, glass, and china works of the colonial era. The Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda was showing textiles of Latin America. There was a great deal of work from Mexico (from the Museo de Artes Populares) and from Guatemala (from the Museo de Arte Textil) – both of which I’ve visited!
The Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights) in the city was chock-full of audiotapes, videotapes, photos and text, much to listen to and learn. Most of it was painfully familiar. New to me was information on protest during the dictatorship (and I found I was a little shocked to see reference to “la dictadura”, rather than “el gobierno militar”), the No campaign, and on bombings and assassinations by the left. http://www.museodelamemoria.cl/
The Museo Nacional de Etnografía y Folklore is in an old renovated government building in La Paz. One large area is of textiles. There are plenty hanging on the walls, and more in drawers underneath. It was a little frustrating to look at because the motion-triggered overhead light went out every two minutes and, no photos allowed. Still, nice. Then to the area of feather work, just gorgeous. Then masks, all apparently used for dances (but perhaps the whole of the Yaqui Easter ceremonies would be counted as dances). Then, ceramics. The last is the whole historic exhibit. All pretty good. Some problems for me w/ lighting; the explanatory text was often too dark to read, and sometimes too long. Or black printing on a dark background. Plus, I couldn’t think of photographing; no photos allowed. http://www.musef.org.bo/
What a joy is the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in La Paz, Bolivia. In realistic paintings, I loved to see artists who appreciate the beauty of the people and the landscape. A young man spoke to me, Lior, from Israel. Like me, he was thrilled. We both paid the extra fee for the chance to take photos. (I know this was part of what I appreciated: the chance to take street photos through the windows and to photograph portraits of people I’m not able to photograph in person.) The building is so photogenic, with views from the windows of the hillside neighborhoods, even sometimes of mountains. Part of what makes this place so beautiful is the light, the clarity of the air.
In El Alto, on the way into town from the airport is an impressive monument to Che Guevara. As he was assassinated in Bolivia, Guevara is an “issue” here, both loved and hated, resulting in shame and anger. The sculptor is Félix Durán, and the 7-metre high piece is made of scrap metal. Che carries a rifle in his right hand, a dove in his left, and stands on an eagle! http://laurencecoulton.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/ernesto-che-guevara-el-alto-bolivia/
Carlos Dreyer was a German painter and amateur archeologist who married a Peruvian and lived in Peru for fifty years until his death in 1975. His heirs donated his collection to the Municipality of Puno, which acquired his nineteenth-century home and established the Museo Carlos Dreyer.
Carlos Dreyer. (2012, 30 de mayo). Wikipedia, La enciclopedia libre. Fecha de consulta: 02:48, junio 5, 2013 desde http://es.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Carlos_Dreyer&oldid=56621410.
Puno also has a prívate museum, the Museo de la Coca. One room is of coca lore, photos, stories, and uses. Aymara and Quechua people will never give up coca because “It defines who we are!” Online, I find the museum is owned by Sylvia, “descendiente de aymaras,” who reads fortunes in coca leaves and travels the world giving lectures (http://www.museodelacoca.com/). Interesting; I never saw mention of the lejía or soda as facilitators of alkaloid release. There is a great collection of ceremonial regalia and masks, much of it familiar from Oaxaca and Sonora. (Likely because they were spread by Catholic missionaries.)
From Puno we travelled 1 ½ hours or so until reaching the archeological site of Pucara, but we didn’t actually get to go to the site because of excavation. A large platform structure could be seen from the road. We went into the town of Pucara to a privately owned Alcrapukara museum (not the state one!). There was a mix of pottery, a few vicuñas in a pen, some lithics, a bit of religious stuff.
Pardo, Julian. Pucara Puno Peru. In Rediscovering America. Retrieved June 4, 2013 from http://www.rediscovering-america.com/Pucara%20Titicaca%20Thiahuanaco%20Incas%20Puno%20Peru.html
The beautiful Iglesia de San Pedro in Andahuaylillas is spoken of as the Sistine Chapel of the Americas, because every surface is covered with paintings and gold. I had fun talking with little girls there, who were interested in why I was taking photos of the rectory – whose foundation is four centuries old.
One of the more tourist-filled sites in Cuzco is the Inca’s Qorikancha, now the Convento Santo Domingo, another ceremonial structure superseded by a Catholic church, although the foundations remain. There is some fantastic stonework inside and overlooking the city.
The Casa Concha is a colonial building atop the residence of the royal lineage of Tupa Inca Yupanqui. It now houses the Museo Machupicchu, including a huge model of Machu Picchu that lights up in synchrony with an oral explanation of the site. The building was refurbished especially to receive 366 artifacts excavated and removed by Hiram Bingham and others, which were returned to Peru by Yale University in 2011.
Culture & Places News: Yale Agrees to Return Machu Picchu Artifacts (n.d.). National Geographic. Retrieved July 26, 2013 from http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/culture-places-news/hiram-bingham-vin/
In downtown Lima is the Casa Nacional de la Moneda. On the second floor (up many flights of stairs, being an old bank with high ceilings) is a collection of paintings by the best Peruvian artists. So I was told by a very nice young lawyer, Miguel. He works in the government for one of the senators, and loves art so much he spends his lunch break with the paintings. He started speaking to me in broken English, and blushed when I answered in Spanish. I’m the one who should be blushing, as I know so little about art! One of the artists I liked is the costumbrista Francisco (Pancho) Fierro, a mulato who did watercolors of the people of Lima. http://panchofierr.blogspot.ca/2012/06/pancho-fierro-biografia-fue-hijo-de.html
In the basement of the bank, in the vaults, is a great ceramic collection from the several culture areas of Peru through the centuries. I realized that I tend to think of the various big cultural complexes as separate and sequential (e.g. Moche, Chimu, Tiwanaku) when in fact several coexisted and overlapped.
José María Arguedas was a poet, ethnologist and anthropologist who wrote a great deal about indigenous people, and there’s a whole ethno-graphy project dedicated to him, aimed at collecting and protecting local customs and celebrations through photography. On the street was an exhibit of photos relating to this folklore project (hence ethno-graphy).
José María Arguedas. (2013, 27 de mayo). Wikipedia, La enciclopedia libre. Fecha de consulta: 14:45, junio 13, 2013 desde http://es.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jos%C3%A9_Mar%C3%ADa_Arguedas&oldid=67213643.
La Casa de la Gastronomía Peruana in Lima is more of an exhibit or display museum than a critical analysis, but still informative. There are displays of distinctive Peruvian foodstuffs and of Peruvian dishes and preparations. Illustrations of cooking methods, e.g. pit cooking and stone oven cooking, are not common in museums. Competitions have been held in various areas of the country, prizes awarded for the best recipes, and cooks and dishes are portrayed in large displays. Obtain recipes at www.ins.gob.pe. Kiwicha (amaranth) and kañiwa are indigenous grains new to me. Pallar (lima beans) and habas are two different things. Habas are broad beans, domesticated in the Old World. A room dedicated to quinoa has just opened. Kinwa (quinoa) has to be thoroughly washed to remove the bitter taste of saponina. This also helps explain why it is used in washing raw wool: it’s soap, and probably suds up!
I longed for something on the politics of food, hunger, distribution, the displacement of indigenous foods by European or modern cuisine, prohibition on the production of indigenous foods, etc. For example, kinwa has become very fashionable in rich countries, especially among those sensitive to other grains. There was a time when only peasants ate quinoa; now that it’s become popular w/ foreigners, it has become almost unaffordable, a driver told me.
I spent at least three hours at the Museo Larco in Pueblo Libre, a neighborhood of Lima (http://www.museolarco.org/). Housed in a large structure on a couple of levels, looking like a colonial building from the outside, it was actually built to be a museum in the 1950s. Rafael Larco Hoyle was born in Peru to a wealthy sugar-planting family near Trujillo. His father had amassed a huge archeological collection which was donated to the Prado in Madrid! They then started over, and got together another collection of pottery, silver and gold for Rafael. He ran family businesses in addition to the museum collection and excavations. I wonder why there wasn’t more representation of llamas and alpacas.
The collection seems a bit haphazardly presented, or at least I had some trouble figuring out the logic. It sort of seems to be types of objects, and within that, cultures and eras. A significant collection of erotic pottery seems rather oddly interpreted. There is a comment that not all of the sex is reproductive, but rather intended not to result in conception, i.e. there’s a lot of oral sex. Very prudishly, all cases of “doggy style” and even of “woman sitting on top” are interpreted as anal intercourse! And there are definitely some male homosexuals, explicitly labeled as “hombre y mujer” – man and woman.
I’d never realized how infrequently women are portrayed in Andean ceramics.
Most incredibly, there is a huge collection in a storehouse, behind glass, open to the public. Tens of thousands of pieces are organized by type. See images: https://www.google.com.pe/search?q=museo+larco&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=4Tq5UcjLIOqqiALK_4DQAQ&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1024&bih=475#facrc=_&imgrc=7PU_MEg9YSv70M%3A%3BmmNoS_e91PvQbM%3Bhttps%253A%252F%252Flh6.googleusercontent.com%252F-l_WKzPH3LZk%252FSe4CHq6Nv3I%252FAAAAAAAAGbk%252F6U2CG3n_Sg0%252Fs288%252F35%2525252520Museo%2525252520Larco%2525252520Herrera%2525252520%252525252865%2525252529%2525252520Moche%2525252520-%2525252520Huacos%2525252520Eroticos.JPG%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwhotalking.com%252Fpicasa%252FLarco%252BHerrera%3B288%3B192
I began to wonder why everything Andean had to be a jug. They made jugs portraying everything and everyone conceivable. A heck of a lot of them have one small hole out (and in) through which everything must flow. It would have been horribly messy, as there was no way for air to get in except through the same hole. (How do you get ketchup out of the bottle?) Not to mention impossible to clean.
Finally, I learned that these are “huacos” – ceramics made for luxury or ceremonial use, often sacred (like “huacas”). It’s wonderful that museums display fascinating huacos, but where is the everyday stuff?
The Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú is in Pueblo Libre about a 15 minute walk away, following a blue line through the very pleasant neighborhood. Here, a room was dedicated to Amazonia as well as the other culture areas. The Museum doesn’t seem to have its own website, but was founded in 1822! Being historical, there was some stuff from the colony and the republic.
The Museo Nacional Cultura Sicán (in Lambayeque, near Chiclayo, Peru) has way too much death, burial, royalty, gold and sacrifice for my tastes. Still, I learned one way in which pottery is molded. The mold has a groove scored around it, and a string is placed in that groove. Clay is pressed onto the mold; then the string is pulled out of the groove, cutting through the soft clay. The two pieces must then be patched together. (I’d always pictured the wet clay going inside the mold, which would have to be separated into two pieces, or made in two halves.) This site has good images and descriptions of the museums: http://www.lambayeque.net/museos/
Because they were closed for Father’s Day (!), we didn’t visit the Museo Nacional Tumbas Reales de Sipán, nor did we see the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Antropología Brüning. The big excitement there is the exhibit of the mortuary goods (ajuar) of the Sacerdotisa (Priestess) Lambayeque de Chornankap, just opened. It’s going on a foreign tour eventually. There’s to be a brief write-up in National Geographic. Photos are here http://elcomercio.pe/actualidad/1590299/noticia-fotos-exposicion-tesoros-sacerdotisa-chornancap-se-lucira-lambayeque/
The Palacio Municipal de Chiclayo is one of those beautifully painted public ones, yellow w/ white trim. It’s been renovated recently since a fire in 2006. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eXQSAUonRk ) My guide to the photography exhibit was a kind young man in a dark suit, fond of using a wooden pointer. He read the text material beside the photos to me. Chiclayo’s plaza is lovely.
Cuenca’s Museo del Banco Central, or Museo Pumapungo has some interesting stuff (not to mention the Tomebamba archeological park) but is a very frustrating museum. For one thing, the security guard was also the only person around to sign in visitors and answer any questions – but he was either on the phone or conversations were interrupted by ringing or intercom. I really hate being interrupted!
The other frustrating thing was that illustrations and text were totally illegible, to my eyes. They were fuzzed out of focus, and/or the light shining on letters created a shadow so they couldn’t be distinguished. Or it was black letters on a patterned background. In addition, photographs weren’t allowed. Fortunately, there are plenty on the Internet. https://www.google.ca/search?q=museo+pumapungo&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=c9b2UdiJD6SayQHv74DoAQ&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1280&bih=899
The museum has a good collection and explanation of Shuar tsantsa, or shrunken heads. Again, illegible and unphotographable.
Shuar people. (2013, May 19). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:42, June 21, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Shuar_people&oldid=555724754
The Museo de las Culturas Aborígenes of Cuenca is governed by a corporation. Like others, it has some really interesting examples of pre-Inca ceramics. The gift shop sells Ikat paños de Gualaceo – for U.S. $300.
The Museo del Viejo Catedral is really just the interior of the old, de-consecrated cathedral of Cuenca, with a few remaining religious images and some painted walls. It’s now used for musical concerts. I got a giggle out of the semicircle of musicians’ chairs in the raised altar area. Behind that were four rows of bleachers and, behind them, figures of the twelve apostles, with Jesus in the center, in a semicircle!
The Museo de las Conceptas was a nun’s convent, so had memorabilia of their presence. There were photos of a nun making communion wafers but, mostly, I found many of the religious figures (saints, Virgins, Jesus, the figures of many Nativities) grotesque, as well as the novices’ toys. There were images of daily life that I think were total fakes; the same novice with the same smile in each. Actresses?
At the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno was an exhibit by Cuenca-born Fernando Coellar: http://www.hoy.com.ec/noticias-ecuador/un-laberinto-de-beaterias-en-el-museo-de-arte-moderno-de-cuenca-582964.html http://www.fernandocoellar.com/Gallery.htm http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bH2Da5amlg. To me, his images are a cross between Disney and manga. They’re really neither one, just his own. I especially enjoy his interpretation of biblical and hagiographic themes!
At the Centro Cultural Metropolitano de Quito was an exhibit of indigenous people from around the world, speaking of how climate change is affecting them: Conversations with the earth: Indigenous voices on climate change (http://www.conversationsearth.org/). They’ve had almost nothing to do with causing the change, yet suffer it the most. A Quichua village suffered a tsunami as a result of an over-hanging glacier breaking off and landing in the lake, flooding the containment systems, destroying water delivery systems. In another Quichua village, a man goes to the glacier twice a week for ice, which he sells in the market. He hauls it out on burro, wrapped in hay he’s cut for the purpose. It’s better for making blended drinks than industrial ice. How long before the ice is gone? Pacific Islanders spoke of the pollution created by atomic testing, the defoliation, but especially rising waters, bringing in salt water, destroying crops, a double blow in just a few generations.
Included in the exhibit are gourds carved and burned by Irma Luz Poma Canchumani. They’re gorgeous, but my photos didn’t work out. There’s much on google, e.g. http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/09/21/carving-my-dreams-into-a-gourd-mother-earth-climate-change/
Paúl Calderón is a very talented realist painter, w/ a great show at the same Centro Cultural (unrelated to Conversations…). The exhibit’s catalogue is available online: http://issuu.com/covi3/docs/calderon
I convinced myself to go to the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, the park and monument to the Equator. Couldn’t very well skip that while in Quito, Ecuador, could I? A broad sidewalk leads to the monument, which is a large sphere on top of a tower. A yellow line is said to mark the equator. (A location 300m away claims that distinction.) It costs $3 to get in (for foreigners) and another $3 to get into the tower, which has an ethnographic museum. There are displays for the indigenous peoples of each of the areas of Ecuador. Not bad; nothing political or controversial; no photos allowed. Smudgy photos and maps. I learned that some of the Afro-Ecuadorian population consists of descendants of slaves brought in by Jesuits to work their fields in the 16th century. Also in the park are restaurants, cafes and a lot of craft stores; it’s a bit Disneylandish in this regard, especially as most stores sell exactly the same stuff. Ditto for the many restaurants. (Or, as I overheard another tourist say, “It’s a lot like Six Flags.”)
The Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús in Quito is lined in gold and carved to the nth degree. Baroque, 18th century, finished maybe 2 years before the Jesuits were expelled. Lots of tour groups were in there, and only one local person I could see. I was told it would cost $3 to get in, so questioned the amount of change I got back. The ticket seller explained she had only student tickets remaining, so couldn’t charge me full price. (I should have donated the balance.)
After the Jesuits were expelled, the church was given to the Camilos. It was returned to the Jesuits not too long ago, and has undergone 19 years of repairs. The steeple was toppled by the last earthquake. The bells are now inside the church, awaiting a new steeple, I guess. It used to be the tallest structure in Quito. http://fundacioniglesiadelacompania.org.ec/portal/ No photos allowed. https://www.google.ca/search?rlz=1C1AFAB_enCA452&q=iglesia+compania+de+jesus+quito&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&biw=1241&bih=593&bvm=pv.xjs.s.en_US.9jgl75mduIg.O&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=BDn3UbjqIYSoiAK_7IGQBQ
The Basílica del Voto Nacional is dedicated to the Sagrado Corazón (Sacred Heart), because Ecuador is. It’s not a terribly old building, made of concrete, but quite interesting and even beautiful. First, the outside is all baroque curlicues, really tall and slender, delicate-looking. I was then struck by the pairs of animals emerging from the gables: tortoises, anteaters, iguanas, jaguars, monkeys. They did charge $1 to go in, which I didn’t mind at all, especially as they allowed photos. The altar to the Virgin of Guadalupe is beautiful. She is flanked by the Virgin of each South American country. A woman was fastening roses and sashes to church pews for a wedding while children were being catechised. The views are fantastic, although I was very happy the stairs to climb the towers were already closed! No way did I climb up! http://foxnomad.com/2010/06/03/the-path-to-the-top-of-quitos-la-basilica-church-in-pictures/ http://www.google.ca/search?rlz=1C2AFAB_enCA452&q=quito+basilica&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&biw=1241&bih=593&bvm=pv.xjs.s.en_US.9jgl75mduIg.O&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=lCj3Uf6fI6jaigKQs4HwCg
Bogotá’s Museo Botero was the first of several Colombian locations I visited to which Fernando Botero has made such a huge contribution. To this one, he has donated not only many of his own pieces, but also a huge collection of other artists’. They do allow photos, but if one gets too close to the pictures, an alarm goes off. Embarrassing.
The Museo del Oro Banco de la República in Bogotá (http://www.banrepcultural.org/museo-del-oro) leads me to think gold was worked all over Colombia by pre-hispanic peoples. It looks quite different from Costa Rican three-dimensional goldwork; there’s much more in thin gold sheets. There was a lot of lost-wax work here, too. The museum has items beautifully displayed, with interesting and legible text. Captions are detailed, often humorous and awestruck. The museum was full of people. It covers three floors. Photographs are allowed (http://www.flickr.com/groups/museodeloro/pool/) There’s a decent summary of the various pre-historic peoples in Colombia, especially as gold is concerned. I think just about everything is on the website. The current temporary exhibit is on Muisca gold offerings. The entire catalogue is downloadable, and there are clear instructions on the website of how to make best use of the whole thing. What a great approach! (http://www.banrepcultural.org/museo-del-oro/exposiciones-temporales/historias-de-ofrendas-muiscas) Like the Banco Central de Ecuador, The Banco de la República spends a great deal on libraries and such around Colombia – great public relations.
In Manizales, Colombia, is the Recinto del Pensamiento Jaime Restrepo Mejía – a park dedicated to thinking? It’s a large park / botanical garden that goes up the side of a hill, as does everything in Manizales. Guided tours are compulsory. Having climbed up a steep path, we came first to the hummingbird viewing area. Very cool, peaceful, warm, humid, nice smelling. There were about 12 people on the tour, and we were passed from one guide to another about every half hour. The guides were all excellent, university students in botany and zoology, I’d bet. One made the good point that male hummingbirds are more brilliantly colored than females so they, not females and young, will be the targets of predators. In my opinion, the most beautiful butterfly was outside the mariposario (butterfly house), a large white one whose wings flash with iridescence as it flies. The bonsais were one of the less interesting areas, in my view, but then came the orchids, growing out of doors on trees.
Also there is an enormous structure by Simón Vélez. It’s made of bamboo (which, if I’ve understood an article correctly, is called the “fierro vegetal” only once it’s been filled w/ concrete.) He made it for a competition in Germany, to demonstrate the strength and versatility of bamboo (guadua). I was disturbed that the floor of the second storey was concrete, but now that I see it’s an integral part of his construction, it makes sense. The article here depicts the man in all his self-centredness. http://www.cromos.com.co/personajes/actualidad/articulo-146024-me-canse-de-disenarles-casas-a-los-ricos-simon-velez
The Monumento a los Colonizadores, is at the top of a gracious middle-class Manizales neighborhood, Chipre. (That’s a monument to settlers, not colonizers!) (http://www.ciudadeje.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=701&Itemid=95). The monument was only created in 1997-2002, apparently of discarded, donated keys. I may have to try looking up more on this in English, as the Spanish sources are pretty scanty. Anyway, it’s a large and quite dramatic sculpture. The bottom half depicts an ox being hauled up a steep hill by a ring through its nose, while a man falls backwards off his horse and other horses are drowning in mud. In the top half, there’s a kid sitting in a chair on top of a mule, a woman holding up a baby, another man hauling the ox. Some of the pieces are broken, hollow inside or showing Styrofoam. Weird, but cool. I gather these colonizers / settlers were Colombians, not foreigners. I can’t seem to find out who the sculptor / designer was.
Some cool 360 degree views of places in Manizales are here: http://www.360cities.net/image/monumento-a-los-colonizadores-manizales-caldas-colombia#335.26,7.00,88.7
Downtown, on a large, paved plaza, is the cathedral (Catedral Basílica Nuestra Señora de los Rosarios de Manizales). One large sculpture depicts Simón Bolívar as a condor. There’s an amazingly large pigeon population around the cathedral. The church itself is very plain cement, with very few monuments. As usual, there are many worshippers. It’s just so different from North American religious practice! This cathedral does have beautiful stained glass.
Medellín’s Jardín Botánico Joaquín Antonio Uribe is mostly just a nice garden with a couple of special areas – e.g. an orquidario (not open today) and a mariposario (which was). Lots of places for people to sit and have picnics, a couple of cafés, all very pleasant. There’s no entrance fee, just a sign saying “La Alcaldía ya pagó tu entrada.” The Municipality of Medellín, Colombia, has already paid your entrance fee, and you have only to follow these rules. The overall feeling in this city is that governments have decided that people will behave as they are expected and are given space to; that, well treated, provided with beautiful things and entrusted not to destroy them they won’t; that the investment in keeping things running well and looking good pays off. For example, there is plenty of supervision and guidance for getting on Metros and Metrocable.
On the Plaza Botero is the Museo de Antioquia of Medellín. Once the building of the municipal government, it encloses two courtyards. There was an exhibit of ceramics, pre-Columbian to modern, showing techniques of forming, decorating, and firing. Very good! Other things were images, paintings and photos, a few of La Violencia, but not a lot. The topic was Antioquero identity, but this wasn’t deemed too important.
Much of the second floor was Fernando Botero. As in Bogotá, he donated a huge amount of work, so gets a lot of publicity. I didn’t know of his political perspective. For example, he produced 80 dramatic, impressive, horrifying images for his Abu Ghraib exhibit, depicting the torture and mistreatment of prisoners there. https://www.google.com.co/search?gs_rn=17&gs_ri=psy-ab&pq=pedro+botero&cp=18&gs_id=1z&xhr=t&q=fernando+botero+abu+ghraib&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&biw=1024&bih=475&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=es-419&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=SIjPUcWOO4rD0QHL6YGICg
He developed another series dealing with La Violencia en Colombia, including one of the rooftop shooting of Pablo Escobar. https://www.google.com.co/search?q=fernando+botero+la+violencia+colombia&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&biw=1024&bih=475&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=es-419&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=O4rPUYnuG8Tk0QGxmIH4Aw
The main floor of the Palacio de la Inquisición in Cartagena, Colombia, has an exhibit of instruments of torture, etc.; I didn’t go in there. Outside were recorded a couple of interesting facts: no Indians were ever prosecuted, and no one was ever found innocent. The Inquisition carried out inquiries, e.g. through torture, but it was other courts that actually condemned people to die and carried out sentences. The building also houses the Museo Histórico de Cartagena de Indias. There is one room with indigenous pottery, another of colonial stuff, a little on slavery, and some republican history. A lot of artifacts have been lost through the years. Renovations have been extensive, with a strong emphasis on replicating the original.
Saint Pedro Claver was a Catalan, born in 1580, ordained a Jesuit in Cartagena in 1616, and lived there as “Esclavo de los esclavos” (Slave of the slaves) until his death in 1654. There are at least a couple of sculptures – one outside, one in – of him ministering to African slaves. The Museo de San Pedro Claver is part of the convent of the church now dedicated to him. It consists of the room where he lived, the room where he died, and paintings of his life. It’s said that very late on Friday nights he paced the floors wearing a crown of thorns, to concentrate on Jesus’ suffering. Another room contains a number of religious images. In the floor above this, today’s priests live.
Perhaps because of the recent rain and dark skies, this was a gloomy and morbid place. Exhibition rooms smelled of mold. The courtyard garden was terribly dark. (This, I think, was a result of clouds. Normally, one would appreciate the shade.) There was a cage with two large birds – a guacamaya and another. Sad.
The church itself was large, but quite bare. It was empty of people, and smelled of furniture polish. The cupola (interior of the dome) is inscribed “Petrus Claver, aethiopum semper servus” (“Peter Claver, servant of the Ethiopians [i.e. Africans] forever.”) His skeleton is under the altar, his skull clearly visible. Wouldn’t the Aztecs and Incas love that?
Close by is the Museo del Oro Zenú; interesting gold, but I’m most interested in the ethnography. Zenú society covered a number of ecozones – the ocean w/ fish and salt, the gold zone, the agricultural zone – and political authorities of each governed exchange between them. (Typical chiefdom.) http://www.banrepcultural.org/cartagena/museo-del-oro-zenu-1
Penal de Ushuaia. (2012, 13 de noviembre). Wikipedia, La enciclopedia libre. Fecha de consulta: 02:20, mayo 14, 2013 desde http://es.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Penal_de_Ushuaia&oldid=61337393.
Cultura Pucara. In Historia Universal. Retrieved June 4, 2013 from http://www.historiacultural.com/2009/04/la-cultura-pukara-pucara-puno.html
Bingham, Hiram (April 1913). In the wonderland of Peru. National Geographic. Retrieved July 27, 2013 from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/1913/04/machu-picchu/bingham-text
Search for the Amazon headshrinkers (February 1, 2013). Inside NGC. Retrieved August 3, 2013 from http://tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com/2013/02/01/search-for-the-amazon-headshrinkers/
Fernando Botero. (2013, 12 de junio). Wikipedia, La enciclopedia libre. Fecha de consulta: 01:16, junio 30, 2013 desdehttp://es.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fernando_Botero&oldid=67641564
Peter Claver. (2013, July 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:11, July 2, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Peter_Claver&oldid=562484062
Politics and society
The situation of indigenous peoples in Chile is by no means ideal, and they’re certainly lively and loud. From hunger strikes to lawsuits to street protests, rather than merely accommodate and heal themselves as victims, they are increasingly forcing the Chilean state and those who have benefited from aboriginal losses to change their attitudes and behavior. They’re becoming equal players on the political and legal stage, rather than oppressed minorities.
A translation of a passage from the writings of Mapuche journalist Pedro Cayuqueo will help to illustrate:
Common sense. It’s what is missing in Chile when we begin to speak of royalty and tax reforms. Here, we prefer patchwork solutions, Plan B. Or the world-famous “Chilean Way,” which means, “Why do something well if we can do it badly or so-so?” For example, for two decades, this typified the Concertación policies vis-à-vis the Mapuche. Did I tell you about the communities for whom CONADI purchased magnificent farms, but neglected to invest in machinery, agricultural inputs and, especially, technical training? Or about those communities for which herds of milk cattle were purchased, while the people lacked pastures to feed them? Obviously, they ate them. Prime beef.
It happened countless times in the South. Hence the actual abandonment of many farms recovered by Mapuche families. No, it’s not that they’re drunk and lazy, as Sergio Villalobos thinks. Just try, without technical or financial support, to shift from being a subsistence food farmer to an agricultural entrepreneur, and then we’ll talk. Along the way, of course, someone noticed the screw-up and came up with the solution: “ORIGENES,” a daring program of support and development assistance for the country’s indigenous communities. Where did the money come from? From royalties from the big forestry, salmon or mining industries operating on indigenous territory in Chile? From the state’s payment of the so-called “historic debt?” No way. It came from a huge loan from the Inter-American Development Bank, $167.9 million dollar, payable by all Chileans over fifteen years with five years of grace and adjustable interest rates. For the multilateral agencies and their local intermediaries, it was a great deal. For indigenous communities, it’s best not to talk about certain things.
Cayuqueo, Pedro (May 11, 2012). The Chilean way. In The Clinic Online. Retrieved July 18, 2013 from http://www.theclinic.cl/2012/05/11/the-chilean-way/
There are some attempts to rectify historical wrongs, e.g. by returning expropriated lands. However, it’s not the beneficiaries of those injustices who are paying. Instead, it is everyone. There is also a tendency, even among leftist South American governments, to characterize indigenous protestors and activists as terrorists.
For example, Bret Gustavson thinks Bolivia’s Movimiento al Socialismo is not being altogether democratic when it responds to indigenous protest (e.g. against natural gas drilling) with bullets. Nor is it always plurinationalist, as indigenous highlanders oppose lowlanders. The “new extractivism” priorizes the resource, exports, revenues, and benefits to urban dwellers over the people. (Rather like forcing low commodities prices on rural farmers to garner urban votes.) Rights to consumption and national revenue outweigh concerns about climate change. Resource extraction is seen as a symbol of revolutionary progress. Only fifteen percent of the natural gas stays in Bolivia; the rest goes to Brazil and Argentina. It provides little benefit to the poor and drought-plagued Guaraní of the Chaco where it is produced. To many Bolivians, getting gas from there is some retribution for 1933-35 War of the Chaco against Paraguay, in which 57,000 Bolivians died. Extraction and use of gas is, thus, a patriotic, and even a religious duty. President Evo Morales gives thanks to Mother Earth for Bolivia’s cheap gas. “Gas—Mother Nature, of sorts—does have many rights, including the right to water, and trucks rumble in bringing this water consumed in drilling operations and left as pollutants in holding ponds.”
Gustafson, Bret (May 28, 2013). Amid gas, where is the revolution? NACLA. Retrieved July 22, 2013 from https://nacla.org/news/2013/5/28/amid-gas-where-revolution
My cabdriver says that when Evo Morales became President of Bolivia, he was completely anti-corruption and did lots of good things. He appointed his right-hand man head of the natural gas corporation, which is now the biggest source of income for Bolivia. When the man stole, he was thrown in jail. When things like that happen now, Morales makes excuses and lets them go.
However, Bolivians appreciate some improvements. There are a number of “bonos”: one for women who’ve just had children (about $100/month for six months), $60/month for people over 60, and $100 each at the beginning and the end of the school year, to encourage children to attend and to stay in school. (That’s if their parents don’t take it!) In addition, Bolivia (and Ecuador!) subsidizes the cost of gasoline. Foreigners are charged double what Bolivian citizens pay. It is said that the whole economy of Juliaca, Peru is based on smuggling. People cross the border into Bolivia to bring back everything from electrical appliances to toys to gasoline.
On the walkways in front of a university in La Paz were craft vendors and booths for various causes, including “Mujeres creando” (http://www.mujerescreando.org/) The website is very interesting, the feminism radical. There’s a great interview elsewhere with one of its founders, María Galindo. For instance, one of their actions has been to make Ekeko, the Andean god of abundance, into a woman, Ekeka – rejecting the patriarchy of the father/provider and his erotic aspect.
Green, Sharyl and Lackowski, Peter (April 2, 2012). Bolivian Radical Feminist Maria Galindo on Evo Morales, Sex-Ed, and Rebellion in the Universe of Women. Upside down world: Covering activism and politics in Latin America. Retrieved July 24, 2013 from http://upsidedownworld.org/main/bolivia-archives-31/3549–bolivian-radical-feminist-maria-galindo-on-evo-morales-sex-ed-and-rebellion-in-the-universe-of-women-
A store clerk told me the story Ekeko, the laughing mustached male figure laden with possessions. He is the god of abundance, fertility and joy. Before the Spanish, she said, he entered houses naked, but wearing lots of gold. Now he’s dressed, usually in a suit, tie and hat, carrying lots of “stuff.”
It’s apparent community is really strong. In Bolivia, the highway goes through areas where houses are scattered but in sight of each other. Their outhouses were often identical, implying they’d been purchased and installed simultaneously, by the community.
This article briefly covers land reform in South America, explaining why it was needed – why land tenure is so different in South vs. North America.
Eguren, Fernando, “Land Reforms in Latin America,” A Discussion Paper, 2005. Retrieved July 29, 2013 from http://www.landcoalition.org/sites/default/files/legacy/legacypdf/angoc/ch2/ch2p07.pdf?q=pdf/angoc/ch2/ch2p07.pdf
The right to collectively own land is enshrined in Bolivia’s 2010 constitution. A Tierra Comunitaria de Origen (TCO, Original Community Land) is something like a Canadian Indian reserve. “Indigenous” in Bolivia means those who did not participate in Bolivia’s 1952 revolution. Campesino – peasant – designates those who did. The two not infrequently clash. Campesinos tend to be in the western highlands; indígenas in the eastern lowlands. As campesino lands have been fragmented into minifundios (small landholdings) in the generations since 1952, and with increasing population, campesinos have moved east, to the Oriente, where more land is available. However, many of the TCOs have been formed there by indigenous groups, who think of land as communally-owned, for hunting, fishing, etc. Campesinos want land used “productively” (i.e. for $), governed by individuals and families rather than communities. Campesinos sometimes speak of the TCOs as “the new latifundistas” – the new large landowners who hamper and exploit them.
Achtenberg, Emily (April 1, 2013). Bolivia: The unfinished business of land reform. NACLA. Retrieved July 23, 2013 from https://nacla.org/blog/2013/3/31/bolivia-unfinished-business-land-reform
If a person moves into a community in Bolivia, he might be able to rent a building, but if it were up for sale, community authorities would have to agree to his buying it. They’d have to agree he’s been in the community long enough and has done enough positive things to qualify as a member. For instance, if I were to come from Canada and want to buy land, I was told I’d have to have a recommendation from my president, the head of my government, before I’d be allowed to buy in. Rent, yes, but not own.
I was more successful tracking down community and collective land tenure in Peru than in Bolivia. In Peru, communities can have collective title.
http://www.cepes.org.pe/pdf/observatorio_tierras/propiedad_colectiva_tierra.pdf presents the Ley General de Comunidades Campesinas, 1987 (General Law of Peasant Communities). They’re legally recognized, own and allocate land communally, and their form of government is regulated (President, Vice president, at least 4 directors, all of whom must be qualified comuneros, and speak the local language). A comunero (member) must be adult, have lived in Community at least 5 years, renounce membership in all other Communities, may marry in. Communities have their own constitutions (http://faolex.fao.org/docs/pdf/per20093.pdf ).
Peru’s land reform took place in the early 1970s under a military gov’t (though it started long before). Large estates were given to peasant co-ops. The purposes of the reform were to diminish social inequality and concentration of wealth. Some of its negative consequences were unsuccessful cooperatives, atomization of landholdings and lack of capital investment. More recently, with new cash crops, land concentration is returning.
Land reform took place in the late 1960s or 1970s in Ecuador. It had pluses and minuses. It freed peasants from the control of the landowner. Hacendados (owners of haciendas) practically owned them, in a system of debt peonage. Hacendados didn’t need to have the land in production because they had reliable income from peasants. However, since land redistribution, there’s been a great deal of deforestation, because each new owner cleared his land.
In discussion of indigenous peoples, there is often reference to Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization.
C169 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989. Retrieved July 28, 2013 from http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—normes/documents/publication/wcms_100897.pdf
Most South American states have ratified it; North America has not.
Despite ratification, there are disagreements. For example, Peru’s President Ollanta Humala refuses to consult with peoples of the Peruvian sierra and coast regarding resource exploitation (as is required for indigenous communities) because he considers them peasant communities (comunidades agrarias) created by the land tenure reform. “Peasant” is not “indigenous.” “Comunidades nativas” (indigenous communities), in his view, are only in the jungle.
The clerk at a great bookstore in Cusco – a social scientist – gave me a lecture on the Partido Comunista del Perú Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path guerrilla movement. It consisted of 5000 members who kept the country in a state of war for years! It was so radically nationalistically communist it had no ties to any other countries. Abimael Guzmán, the main leader, never fired a gun and was arrested in a bourgeois neighborhood of Lima. The elitist movement had no interest in having the people join as members or doing the will of the people; they knew best. It was almost a religious cult, with members speaking of Guzmán as if he possessed a revealed truth. Some analysts have spoken of the movement as a consequence and replication of colonial relationships, but it was actually something new. It held some appeal for peasants who were urbanizing, modernizing. The government really blew it by attacking the peasantry, causing the movement to expand, rather than going after the source of it: the militarized cadres and the problems of the peasantry.
Peru formed a Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Its 2003 Report says over 69,000 were killed during the 1980-2000 armed conflict; Shining Path is responsible for over 31,000 of those, and the military and death squads for the remainder. The Committee also compiled a photographic exhibit: Yuyanapaq: To remember. http://www.yale.edu/macmillan/lais/YuyaExhibitBook.pdf
Currently, terrorism/guerrillas/Sendero Luminoso, narco-traffickers, the rural poor, and the military are all tangled up. The VRAEM (Valley of the Rivers Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro) seems to be a particularly problematic area. Land titles have only recently been transferred to individual owners; housing is being built for military personnel, who are sometimes the victims and sometimes the perpetrators of shootings. Drug trafficking is now equated with Sendero Luminoso and with terrorism. SL protects coca producers, its main source of income. Lacking other employment and income, peasants and youth are lured into working for the coca industry.
Peru has a new law on military service. All men have to register when they turn 17. University students and fathers are exempt. Recruits will be drafted only if there aren’t enough volunteers, and there will be a lottery among those who are registered. If a man’s name is drawn, he can pay a fine of S1850 to avoid serving one to two years. If he is selected and just doesn’t show up, he is subject to “muerte civil,” i.e. civil death: he can engage in no civil transactions at all, get no license, get married, etc. Those who do military service get technical training, the chance of studies at armed forces and police academies and a line of credit at the Banco de la Nación. However, there is serious opposition to the class discrimination of the lottery and fine; only the poor will do military service.
Keiko Fujimori (presidential candidate for her father’s Acción Popular party) alternately accuses President Ollanta Humala of “not wearing pants” or of hiding “behind his wife’s skirts.” (It’s a possibility Nadine Heredia will run for president and her husband Ollanta for Vice President, as he can’t succeed himself. The arrangement is jokingly referred to as “reelección conyugal”!) When Humala refused ex-president Alberto Fujimori release from his prison sentence on compassionate grounds (He’s depressed.), Keiko said, “Humala tendrá botas, pero el fujimorismo tiene pantalones.” Humala may have boots, but Fujimorism wears pants. (Fujimori stands convicted of murder, kidnapping, bodily harm, embezzlement and bribery.)
Ecuadorans speak with great pride of their government. President Rafael Correa has won three successive elections with increasing majorities. The American dollar was adopted as currency in 2001, at a rate of 2500 sucres to the dollar (“dolarización”, by a previous government). It was pretty disastrous for many people, but they’ve adjusted. Confidence in the money has replaced fear of hyperinflation and never knowing how much loan repayment will amount to. Before this gov’t, no one paid taxes and no public works were done. There was protest when taxes were imposed, but now people can see how the money is spent. The middle class is willing to pay because they see the rich being taxed. The Panamerican highway was a pothole-filled road of dirt. Now it’s a paved highway. Schools and health care are much better and poverty has been reduced. Ecuador is offering to forego petroleum projects in Amazonia if they receive financial support from abroad to replace the oil revenues. (David Suzuki was most impressed!) At least as significantly, this president stands up for Ecuador. The term and concepts of socialism are used freely, refusing to bow to the U.S., and Ecuadorians are now quite aware that there is more than one trade partner and power in the world.
One of Correa’s campaign promises was to regulate the media. The “Ley Orgánica de Comunicación” was recently passed, Among other things, it aims to reduce the concentrated ownership of means of communication, reduce slander and libel, and increase Ecuadorian content during prime time. The opposition speaks of curtailing freedom of speech, violating human rights, censorship, socialist dictatorship, tyranny, etc. Another plan is to reorganize land tenure.
(The Venezuelan gov’t is planning to pass a new law, “Ley de Protección, Promoción y Apoyo de la Lactancia Materna,” to promote breast feeding rather than infant formula. They want to battle industrial milk sellers. It may be so extreme as to prohibit the use of baby bottles and soothers! They’d better be sure women don’t have to work while breast feeding!)
Colombians are feeling pretty good about their country. There is the old-fashioned nationalism, e.g. “Spaniards say we speak the best Spanish, and if they say it, you can bank on it.” (It’s always been said, but I’d have to disagree, given lots of mumbling.) Colombia is second in the world in flower exports, and first in exotic flower exports. Colombia has two oceans and three mountain ranges. Colombia is the best friend the U.S. has in the region. And so on.
More seriously, they’re very relieved about how much better life is here now than it was a few years ago. People feel safe to go out, there is much less violence and less drug trafficking. Kidnappings, death squads, extortion, murders, torture were all terrifyingly common during La Violencia.
Dividing lines were deep and conflictive: desperate urban and rural poor, indigenous peoples, neighborhood gangs, laborers and unions, industrialists, multinational oil companies, landowners, drug traffickers, guerrillas, paramilitary (AUC – Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia), armed forces, government and the justice system – all with subdivisions, all fighting with each other at least some of the time, almost all armed.
Guerrillas sought to combat poverty by overthrowing the government and by capturing the wealth of the rich owners and of the drug lords, often through kidnapping and ransoms. They are now in negotiation with the government.
The paramilitary (“soldiers” from the drug trade and off-duty and ex-military), got their start when guerrillas kidnapped a sister of big drug lord. The drug handlers put their money into creating MAS (Muerte a Secuestradores – Death to Kidnappers). Soon, the AUC were supported by “políticos, militares, ganaderos, empresarios y personas del común” and multinationals who felt the state military, hampered by legal procedures, wasn’t doing enough. The alliance between government and the drug barons went so far as to allow the latter and their money into government. It didn’t last beyond 1984.
Before long, AUC were raising money from the drug trade, kidnappings, blackmail and extortion, just like the guerrillas were accused of. So much drug trafficking, they’re also called “narcoparamilitary.” Besides guerrillas (FARC, ELN, ELP), they persecuted leaders of indigenous peoples, peasants and unions – anyone leftist. They got hold of lots of land. Eventually, their only dispute w/ the guerrillas was over control of the drug trade, and there was all-out war between the paramilitaries and the government in the early 1990s; Pablo Escobar died in a gun battle in 1993. In 2003, under Uribe’s presidency, they were dissolved and most surrendered their weapons. Fourteen bosses were extradited to the U.S. on drug trafficking charges on May 13, 2008 for trafficking from jail. Since 2006, some have reconstituted themselves, now termed “bacrim” – bandas de criminales emergentes. Aguilas Negras is one of these.
Comuna 13 was one of the Medellín neighborhoods most affected by La Violencia. I saw what I now think was a photo of it at the airport today – a neighborhood whose hills are reached by long, orange-roofed escalators. The escalators (and the Metrocable) were installed in part to link neighborhoods all the way up the hill, breaking boundaries (http://www.kienyke.com/historias/cesar-hernandez-construyo-escaleras-electricas-en-la-comuna-13/
Still more importantly, they were installed to link these neighborhoods to the city as a whole, to make it easier to get to work, to school, and to access urban services (and, probably, to police!) The word “integration” is often used – integrating social classes across geographical dividing lines. Similarly, the Alcaldía created its “Program for Peace and Reconciliation of the Subsecretariat of Human Rights” (http://www.medellin.gov.co/irj/portal/medellin ) – to socially reintegrate members of the AUC and guerrilla forces.
It’s for these kinds of projects that Medellín was named “Innovative City of the Year” by the Wall Street Journal, City and the Urban Land Institute. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/02/medellin-named-innovative-city-of-the-year_n_2794425.html
In the area of Catatumbo, near the Venezuelan border, there are peasant protests against the destruction of the coca fields, demanding peasant reserves and development assistance. This was one of the many areas where paramilitary occupation, from 1999-2004, was followed by military occupation. In the course of their conflict, with guerrilla forces added in, 10,000 were killed, 600 disappeared, and 100,000 were displaced. It’s still not over; in June 2013 four people were killed during protests demanding land. As the region was made increasingly uninhabitable for peasant communities, space was created for petroleum extraction, a likely open-pit coal mining operation, and cacao and palm oil plantations (http://catatumbo-colombia.blogspot.ca/).
One of the consequences of La Violencia has been depopulation of rural areas so they can be opened up to large-scale cash crop production and mineral extraction. The owners win again.
And there is still urban violence. James “Terry” Watson of the Drug Enforcement Agency was killed on June 20 in Bogotá. He’d recently married a Colombian woman. He may have been the victim of a “paseo millonario,” in which people are forced to ride around, often in a taxi, and extract money from their bank accounts with their debit cards (something I was frequently warned of). Or it may have had to do with his work. In late July, six men were extradited to the U.S. to be tried for the crime, under the argument that Watson was a diplomat.
Cayuqueo, Pedro (2012). Solo por ser indios y otras crónicas mapuches. Santiago de Chile: Catalonia Ltd.
Informe de la Comisión Verdad Histórica y Nuevo Trato con los Pueblos Indígenas (Octubre 2008). Editado por el Comisionado Presidencial para Asuntos Indígenas. Santiago de Chile. Retrieved May 27, 2013 from http://www.corteidh.or.cr/tablas/27374.pdf
Noticias de Pueblos Originarios. Cooperativa.cl. Retrieved May 27, 2013 from http://www.cooperativa.cl/noticias/pais/pueblos-originarios/
Azkintuwe: el periodico del país mapuche. Retrieved May 27, 2013 from http://www.azkintuwe.org/
Parlamento de Quilín (1641). (2013, 25 de mayo). Wikipedia, La enciclopedia libre. Fecha de consulta: 20:53, mayo 27, 2013 desde http://es.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Parlamento_de_Quil%C3%ADn_(1641)&oldid=67143848.
Mapuche. (2013, May 11). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21:16, May 27, 2013, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mapuche&oldid=554647079
(Seems poorly translated from French.)
Mapuche Times: el periódico internacional. Retrieved May 27, 2013 from http://www.mapuchetimes.cl/
Las leyes que protegen a nuestros pueblos originarios (29 de junio, 2011). Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile. Retrieved May 27, 2013 from http://www.bcn.cl/carpeta_temas_profundidad/leyes-que-protegen-pueblos-originarios
LEY Nº 19.253, LEY INDÍGENA. (28 de septiembre, 1993). Retrieved May 27, 2013 from http://www.uta.cl/masma/patri_edu/PDF/LeyIndigena.PDF
Sagamaga Lopez, Rafael (December 27, 2012). Power in Bolivia’s gas-rich Chaco región thrust into indigenous hands. IPS. Retrieved August 4, 2013 from http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/12/power-in-bolivias-gas-rich-chaco-region-thrust-into-indigenous-hands/
Ekeko. (2013, June 11). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21:19, July 19, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ekeko&oldid=559387069
Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989. (2013, April 29). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21:44, July 28, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Indigenous_and_Tribal_Peoples_Convention,_1989&oldid=552678309
Luna Amancio, Nelly (May 3, 2013). Viceministro de interculturalidad formalizó su renuncia al cargo. El Comercio. Retrieved July 28, 2013 from http://elcomercio.pe/actualidad/1571905/noticia-viceministro-interculturalidad-formalizo-su-renuncia-al-cargo
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