The Modern and Traditional World of Cusco

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As we walked around Cusco, I knew this was a city I would love to come back and visit. There is an excellent contrast of the modern world with the traditional aspects of Andean society. Walking around the town it was clear that this was a tourist destination. Many shops with touristy souvenirs, but amongst this were women from the highlands selling handmade goods. They presented alpaca textiles to us, attempting to sell them to everyone who passed. However, this is also an important cultural hub. We experienced this on a tour with Juan Jose, who showed us around some beautiful places.

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We visited Saqsaywaman, a marvelous historical site that could be compared to Machu Picchu. It is comprised of multiple types of stone, such as basalt, granite, and limestone; all of which were brought to the location from a quarry. These stones are carved to fit perfectly together, and it is a wonder they fit together so cleanly. The translation of the site can be broken into different forms, one of which is ‘Satisfied Falcon’, extending back to the traditional culture found here. Another traditional site we visited was a grand Cathedral in the center of town.

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When we stepped inside the church, I was shocked. The decor on the walls were incredibly elaborate, white and blue paint joined by peach trim. It appears to be marble, but it is truly skifully painted plaster. The front of the church was heavily adorned in gold plating, which was an incredible site to see. I have never stepped foot into a more beautiful church. We proceeded into the cathedral, admiring the tapestries and sculptures. I observed a combination of modern and traditional aspect here. The cathedral was buzzing with tourists, googling and drooling over the beauty of the building. Yet simultaneously, there were women kneeling at the altar, deep in prayer. It was beautiful to see this masterpiece still in use for its intended purpose.

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It is fascinating to me to observe this interaction throughout our stay at Cusco. I was excited to see some of the traditional culture preserved and passed down through generations, and thrilled that I was able to experience it. While the modern world may not truly belong with traditional lifestyles, it’s truly fascinating to experience this first hand, and I am glad these two important aspects of our visit intersect.

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