The Sexy Woman of Qusqo (Cusco), Peru - 5

Qusqo, the Emperors New Groove

Feeling much improved, we engaged in a new day in one of the oldest cities in the Americas. Cusco (or Qusqo) was also consider a sacred Incan city; actually, the most sacred. Due to the sprawling, agriculturally rich, river valley, this area always maintained it’s commerce despite the Spanish Conquest. However, any pagan roots were completely destroyed by the Christians, or at least, it went very underground. We toured many ancient Inca ruins in the area but similar to current day ISIS destroying ancient Nineveh, the new religion (of the 1520s) demolished the old religious idols and remodeled the temples for their own use.

Our tour encompassed the Sacsaywuaman (pronounced nearly like Sexy Woman) archeological park. Within were ruins dubbed "The Fortress" by the Spanish, due to the 3-stepped, terraced-walled construction; however, it was actually the Emperor’s grounds known as Tambomachay . The Incan earth movers towered fields of flat carved 125-ton stones and chiseled them so they interlocked into place. There is no mortar, and the finish is smooth. No gaps exist, it is fitted better than tongue-and-groove. Never has an earthquake loosened the dry stacked “cyclop” megaliths due to this Tetris-style construction. Many of the outlying small building boulders were dismantled and used for Colonial building in the greater town area.

Destroyed Puma Statute Protecting Q'enko
Tambomachay is now used for neo-pagan celebration, specifically, the winter solstice (in June), and welcomes the dawn of the new Sun. There is a 60 degree natural rock incline that children will skim down like a slide called Rodadero Slides, Suchana. Our kids also partook in the reverie, twice, as the park was not crowded. Here too, the llamas are allowed to graze freely, I snapped a close-up of the Emperor

The 3 tiers and steps are found often in Inca design. They used a lot of symbolism, and the three steps represented the three Protectors: Condor, Puma, and Snake. From here we continued to the real fortress/military housing known as Puka Pukara and this area also once contained the Sun Gate to Cusco.
The Emperor with a Serious Groove
Puka Pukara

We then continued to Q’enko, a Pachamama temple. Due to my illnness, I missed the Temple of the Pachamama at MP, so this was a small redemption. The entrance was once guarded by a towering stone carved puma, but the head had been cut down by the Spaniards. Behind and underneath, were a series of natural caverns. The Incans used the above ground area to hold royal funerals. The mummies were first prepared within the caverns. From one end of the cave, the deceased would be carried into the “cervix” of the hollow and there disemboweled, embalmed and dedicated within the "womb" of the cave and then prepared for rebirth into the afterlife. Niches were built in exterior walls, lined with gifts; the deceased bodies laid in fetal position and offerings made, to include animal sacrifices. The Temple had a powerful energy and felt very grounding, likely used by pre-Incan’s as well.

Interesting story, our guide told us that several teens snuck into one of the caves and got lost. After several days, in the chapel of Qoricancha (read below), was heard a tapping under the tile floor. When exposed, there was one of the boys. Others were then found. We are talking a snaking underground passage that, as the condor flies is about 6 miles. 

Thereafter, our guide decided, since I was enthralled by the free-roaming llamas, to take us to a farm where they raise llamas and alpacas for wool. This neighborhood is within the Sacsaywuaman district and only the descendants of the area can own property there. They had a petting zoo with two regular types of llamas, adorable baby alpacas and the untamed vicuña (very prissy, high maintenance llamas). After feeding the livestock, you enter into an area of drying wool, all tones of natural and brightly colored dyes were on display. The wool is hung under the eaves as the most ideal drying space in a fairly humid environment. Interesting, they make the bright red from parasites that live on a cactus plant, to make orange, they add lemon juice. It was wonderful for my fashion-school bound daughter to see start to finish fabrication. 

Finally, we entered their storefront, with all miscellany of baby alpaca wool creations. Let’s just say, they threw in a free gift when we departed (and we haggled). 

Next stop on our tour was Qoricancha. This Incan area is in the heart of Cusco, it was the magistrate center and was the most sacred Temple of the Sun. This temple honoring Inti was the largest of all the Sun Temples in the Ancient Incan Empire. Another redemption for what I missed at MP. All sun temples were quintessential stone megaliths honoring the shape of the sun, unique by their curvilinear design; this one was the greatest in girth and had a gathering park and fountains for the masses to worship.

Again, we were shown the intricate puzzling of stone work. Here John was able to demonstrate to me something he learned during the MP tour. He held a level app from his phone against the stones and they were dead-set 0 degrees, despite the fact that this area suffered a 7.7 earthquake in 1650 that flatten nearly all Colonial structures. When the Spaniards invaded Cusco, they took over this compound and used it for Imperial housing and later, government offices and religious studies. It now houses a museum that covers the history of Cusco and many 17th century Basque artwork. The interior looks like a 500 year hodge-podge of shit-fitters disease. 

Temple of the Sun

Perfect Window Symmetry for 3 rooms

Temple of the Sun
Our final tour was of the Iglesias de El Trifuno cathedral, as the larger Cusco Cathedral is not open to tours. Both of these enormous sanctuaries are adjacent to the Plaza de Armas. Our tour guide grew-up in this church and requested we cover the girls legs with their newly purchased baby alpaca scarves, as they were wearing shorts. No photographs were allowed, so I won’t spend too much time describing the 17th century mega-church. 

Suffice it to say, we saw a lot of holy Christian paintings, gaudy gold adorned religious statues and mahogany carvings, as well as other typical garish religious paraphernalia. Our guide pointed out many details; however, I found a few interesting highlights. Most of the artwork was completed by mestizo (half Spanish/half native) and they would sneak-in various symbols of the old religion, like snakes or naked mermaids. Second, they had a mahogany Jesus that had turned nearly black from soot. In another alcove, they had a parade float that serves as an alter but you can also see the steering wheel and seat (South Americans like their parades)! They also had a Last Supper painting with a roasted guinea pig on the plate and on the left of Jesus is an apostle with feminine features (the only beardless one), perhaps Mary Magdeline. Curiously, it was at this moment my son’s silicon bracelet from my father’s funeral snapped and flew through the air. My father had turned his back on the Catholic Church when I very young for unexplained reasons (you can read into it what you want). Finally, when parishioners leave after mass, some place a coca leaf on an Incan stone, as an offering to Pachamama.

I will share that my first experience with a South American Cathedral was in Quito, Ecuador, another historically Incan town, some 30 years ago. I, myself, was disgusted to see the Roman dioceses was funding the re-gilding of the exterior dome with Gold; when, as we entered, rows upon rows of children were mobbing me to buy chiclets and elderly women were begging on the steps. At this church and throughout Cusco, I have only seen one woman begging, the children are at school, and the parents are staying at their vending stations, trying to entice a tourist dollar. Perhaps, it is different due to politics, or economy, or time. I cannot say, but the domes were not gilded.

We stayed at the El Mercado, it was a Spanish style courtyard hotel and I felt they offered some of the nicest services, including 15 sols for a generous bag of laundry. So for about $10 we got all our laundry done for 5 people after 5 days of hardcore traveling. The only complaint was the live music that echoed into the rooms. It was not very good, 80s easy listening crap. Thankfully, it only lasted for a few hours and my headphones worked just fine.
Sexy Woman Tapestry...Pachamama

Cusco once had a river run through it, the Spaniards decided to aqueduct and pave the main stretch into a thoroughfare. This town centro plus the Sacsaywuaman plus the perimeter of the original Incan city was designed in the shape of a reposed puma. We know this because most of the Incan history of Cusco was chronicled by the “first” mestizo: Garcilasco de la Vega or El Inca. He wrote two books as told to him by his Incan Princess mother and this is the knowledge relayed to the tourists and historians.

I don't know if it is because I was ill at Machu Picchu but I definitely felt more centered walking around Sacsaywuaman. Or perhaps, I was just bone-dead tired and needed a momma's touch.