In Cusco, the entire month of June is apparently a festival. There have been parades in the Plaza de Armas in the city center every day (so far), each day featuring brightly costumed dancers of various ages. Here are the littlest ones on parade, because, well, we couldn’t help ourselves:
And the youth:
Because we caught the older dancers at night, we don’t have any proper photos of their Elvis-in-Vegas outfits. But suffice it to say that if a Solid Gold dancer went to Carnival in Rio after robbing a sequin-and-bell factory, their costumes are what would result.
What’s interesting/puzzling to me is the vast chasm between Colombia and Peru in the visibility of indigenous cultures. Before the Spanish conquistadors arrived, both countries had huge native populations, although the Peruvian population was larger (9 million) than Colombia’s (2 million) and their social and physical infrastructure was much more complex and integrated, able to build and maintain cities like this [see photo], which didn’t occur in the heterogenous and nomadic tribal structure of Colombia. Five hundred years later, there is still a strong link to the original cultures in Peru, as these festival pictures attest.
Because I’m a dork, I’m obsessed with figuring out why. My current hypothesis is strongly based on geography as destiny. While Colombia has tough mountainous and jungle terrain to conquer, subdue and make productive — I know, having trekked through, over and up just the very edges of it — it’s a cakewalk compared to the Peruvian Andes and Amazon. Also, it was a direct flight (so to speak) from Spain to Colombia’s Caribbean coast, whereas Peru required vomiting around Tierra del Fuego, wasting away from malaria crossing the Panamanian isthmus, or panting over the Andes a few times. This geography-as-history helped drive vast differences in ethnic make-up; only 3.4% of Colombians are indigenous versus 37% of Peruvians. In the end, regardless of why, the remaining pre-Spanish culture of Peru looks like this from an outsider’s perspective….
…while the remaining Colombian indigenous culture looks like this….
Of course, I’m sure there are scholars who have devoted their entire lives to this question, penning research-based journal articles that someone with the time, interest and a stronger wi-fi connection could read. But sometimes a girl’s gotta just go with Wikipedia and walking tour guides.
It’s interesting, as a final note, that Colombia has a GDP per capita of $7831, 18% higher than Peru’s rate of $6661. I bet that’s relevant somehow as well, and eruditely explored in an article somewhere…