This is a very special post, not only because I will tell you about my hometown, but because while I write I am seeing and enjoying of everything I am describing. And… yes I have put together a special playlist to go with the story 🙂
So after the UK adventure I was back in Perú, more precisely back in Cusco, where I was born, where I grew up, where life goes much slower than London, yet where I can still find the world in it.
Now I will try to walk you through my beloved city, but keep in mind this will be a story that will have many episodes, for what I have to say does not fit in one post.
Located at 3400 meters of altitude Cusco shines high in the Andean mountains, its main square is the centre of life in the city, where everything happens, where everyone goes. Surrounded by colonial houses, that still preserve the Inca legacy at their base. The main buildings around are the Cathedral and Compañia church, both impotent and displaying impressive architecture and art.
The characteristic of the city is a blend of Inca and colonial buildings, narrow cobbled streets where houses with beautiful balconies watch people passing by day after day. The centre is guarded by four main neighborhoods in hills: San Blas, San Cristobal, Santiago and Santa Ana. from which the view over the roof tiles and the surrounding mountains makes your heart stop for a second.
When you walk through, you find streets with names in quechua (the language of Incas) hard to pronounce for some people, you see the ladies with their typical dresses pulling llamas behind, always at the right spot for selfies, or the handicraft markets in some of the little squares that you find hidden between the big old houses.
But if you really pay attention beyond the noise, you will see old ladies hurrying up to mass at the nearest church (there are at least 11 churches in the centre, all at walking distance) you will notice kids going to school with backpacks heavier than your luggage, or the lady that sells tamales (made from corn) at the same corner she’s been for decades, or the locals commuting to/from work at a fast pace, or ladies in heels walking flawlessly despite going downhill and on uneven surfaces, for they’ve trained all their lives, a sort of urban mountain goats if you’d like.
If at this point you wonder why do locals walk fast in a city where things move slow, it is simply because we have learnt to calculate the distances and time considering the traffic, meaning the groups of tourists visiting the city and stopping amazed at every corner, sometimes at every other meter, specially between the main square and San Blas neighborhood. That kind of predictions are not provided by any app, trust me! We develop a natural ability to navigate through the masses of people attempting to listen to all details given by their guides, or trying to take pictures before someone passes by.
On weekends it is the rule to see at least six couples of braids and grooms taking turns to capture the essence of such important moment of their lives with the beautiful architecture as witness. Groups of friends going to any of the bars, restaurants and clubs at night.
Our people has lots of traditions that date from the Inca times and are now combined with traditions from colonial times, so there is often something to celebrate or commemorate. Any day, without previous notice, or sometimes without even reason, some group of dancers take over the main square, celebrating life or the mere fact of being Cusquenian. Get your phone or camera ready, because they will dance for an hour or more, enjoy the emotion of locals, feel your heart beating to the rhythm of drums, suddenly you’ll find your feet moving and joy filling every corner of your being.
Despite being the centre of tourism in Perú, and having changed a lot since the 90s, locals still keep their houses in the centre, one of those families is mine. When I was a teenage I went everywhere I needed to just walking, school, the supermarket, the market, my friend’s house, or the language academy. I still remember the first time I had to talk to someone in english for a school project, quite hard to make the first question until I found two nice ladies from the US. After that it was easier for me to help someone find directions, or go for another project, I was discovering new ways of communicating and learning.
Growing up in the heart of the city was an incredible experience, as I saw the first hostels, b&bs, hotels and restaurants opening up close to my house, which naturally brought people from all over the world as my neighbors, that’s how I learnt to identify the languages even without knowing the meaning of the words, slowly I was building a curiosity, a thirst to discover other cultures and meet some of the people who came to discover my culture.
One thing I absolutely love about Cusco is the blue sky and the sun kissing the mountains for most part of the year, the only month where sun is unlikely to show up is February, when rains are intense. Yet the mysticism of the city remains unbreakable, it doesn’t matter when you come, Cusco will inevitably charm you and leave an unforgettable mark in your memory.
We Cusquenians are proud to be born in the city that was once the most important centre of the Inca empire, we are proud of our legacy, of our buildings defying time and weather, of our blue sky and mountains, our food, our traditional dances, our music, our myths and legends, our kindness and warmth. I am proud of who I am and where I come from…
If you want to know more, keep following and reading. If you have been to Cusco tell me what has taken a special place in your heart? If you haven’t been before tell me what would you like to learn about?
I will take you to some other cities and countries and in between will be taking you back to Cusco, until you come join me to explore it together. Meanwhile… Hasta pronto! See you soon! Auf Wiedersehen! A presto! Au revoir!