People of the Sacred Valley.

There are ladies in traditional garb sitting with their llamas and alpacas on pretty much every corner of Cusco. “Foto, señor?” they call every time they intercept a camera-toting tourist. She, however, doesn’t seem to be one of those. It’s early in the morning and she’s taking her furry companion uphill, away from the touristy hotspots, and doesn’t ask for money when I mimic the act of clicking the shutter control. She keeps on going up, where the whitewashed houses stop and the one in bare bricks begin.

– § –
The parade goes on in the Plaza de Armas. Men and beasts march before where the steps that, today, double up as stands. The boy in Fidel Castro-style field cap attracts my attention: he’s watching intently the procession, but his lineaments and complexion aren’t Andean. I can’t make what he’s saying to the adult next to him, but I like to think that they are both Cusqueños, perhaps descendants of those who invaded and subjugated this people, and that they are enjoying the culture that their ancestors sought, but failed, to eradicate. And I like to think that the boy is glad that they failed.

– § –
The soldiers are waiting in the street. Loosely arranged in rows, clutching rifles and mobile phones, they wait for those ahead of them to get moving, so that they can follow. They are young, fit and, like everyone else in the Valley, stocky. The gear they carry makes them bulkier, their body a succession of clean lines of demarcation between light and shade. Next to them, agile and frivolous, the city passes by. It seems we’re the only one to be surprised to see a military défilé in town.

– § –
Tourism is only one aspect of life in the Sacred Valley. People have other occupations but to look after sunburned, short-of-breath visitors from overseas. Shopkeepers, paper-shufflers, market sellers, teachers: they all rush to come and go from work, jostling for space to drive their cars, or crammed in the old and battered colectivos, with their sons and daughters perched on top of their knees.

– § –
The lady looks frail and unsure as she negotiates the tempest of traffic around the Jesuit church, stepping gingerly through the flock of marauding motorists, but it’s only an impression: under that Panama her eyes are fixed on the goal, the Cathedral’s door, and her wrinkled face is resolute. Beware, anyone thinking of crossing her path.

– § –
News travel fast, these days, and the beginning of the sanctification process of Mother Theresa arrives here, in the Sacred Valley, only moments after it is spread throughout Europe. Whilst in the Old Continent opinionists are ready to pour scorn, from their columns, on the legacy of the Albanian nun, here in the Valley an impromptu celebratory procession begins, an indication of where the truth lies in the whole debate over this nun.

– § –
“Alé Toro” says to me the man on the right in this photo, after I tell him where I’m from (and after having tried his luck with Juventus), then he invites me for beer. It’s ten AM in the morning, and he sways as if he’d more than one already. The lady and two stray dogs watch us talk and say nothing.

– § –
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8 Responses to People of the Sacred Valley.

  1. Inger says:

    I really loved the colourful traditional garbs they were wearing in Peru, but can’t remember anyone asking if we wanted to take their photos (in exchange for money I assume). But it is over 10 years since I was there, so I guess I things have changed. Alternatively I have suppressed certain memories:) I do remember I did give someone money for a photo, but it was me who approached them and asked for the photo.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LaVagabonde says:

    Fantastic photos, Fabrizio. The first one is adorable and the old lady making a beeline for the church made me laugh. Reminds me of the babusky in Eastern Europe. I’m not sure if I’ll ever make it to Cusco, so thanks for the vicarious visit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      Thanks Julie! I’m quite proud of some of these photos, in spite of my best efforts some of them did turn out to be quite good. Indeed, las mamacitas in Peru can be as fearsome as the babushkas in Eastern Europe (or in Israel). However, my favourite is the one of the man and the dogs; I don’t know why – perhaps it was him being tipsy, or the fact that he was so eager to have a chat – but something made me feel rather sad about him. Glad I could bring you to Cusco and to the Valley! 🙂


  3. Just what the world needs: smile-inducing and warm-hearted. Lovely. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lexklein says:

    All wonderful shots, but I’ve always been partial to the Peruvian women in their bowlers. The first one captures such a sweet, gentle moment and the steadfast older woman just reminds me of religious old ladies everywhere: nothing comes between them and their church! I could have sat in that high-altitude main square in Cusco all day, drinking in the hot sun and the people just going about their business. (In fact, I did park there for at least an hour one afternoon, and it remains one of my simplest, fondest memories of Peru.)

    Liked by 1 person

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