Kimberly Gerken is as student at the University of Idaho and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Cusco, Peru.
Once the capital of the Incan Empire, Cusco is a city rich with history that is important to Peruvian culture today. Needless to say, you will never get bored learning about the history of Peru, which intertwines Pre-Incan, Incan, and Spanish culture. The best part is you can put down the textbook and learn by exploring various archaeological sites and museums!
Let’s go back in time to 650 CE to the Pre-Incan Civilization of the Wari. The Wari had many accomplishments, including a method of counting, roads, and an impressive army. But even more interesting was their increased production of maize, which, among other evidence found, implies the occurrence of large scale drinking festivals. Here in Peru, corn is still used to make alcoholic beverages called “Chicha.” However, while learning about several other Pre-Incan civilizations, the Wari didn’t stand out to me until I visited Pikillacta, the remains of a Wari city. Visiting archaeological sites like Pikillacta gives you the opportunity to feel connected to what you are learning about in the class and pushes you to really think about the foundations of civilization and what was happening simultaneously around other parts of the world.
Not far from Cusco, you can explore the Sacred Valley and within it, Moray. These remains of the Inca might resemble an amphitheater, and while the purpose of this site is not completely known, experts are fairly certain that these terraces were once used for experimental agricultural and religious purposes. Not only are their agricultural advances impressive but their architecture can not be overlooked!
Incan and Spanish culture have joined together to create modern Peruvian culture. A great place to see this fusion is the Church of Santo Domingo and Coricancha. Originally named Inti Kancha, Coricancha was the most important temple in the Incan Empire, the Temple of the Sun. The Temple of the Sun is not the only treasure to be found here as there are various other temples such as the Temple of the Moon. Constructed from carved granite, these walls were once covered in more than 700 sheets of pure gold.
Of course with the arrival of Francisco Pizarro and the other conquistadores, the gold was quickly melted and the Church of Santo Domingo was built on top of the foundations of these temples. Today, Catholicism is still the dominating religion here in Peru, but if you look closely, you will still see locals paying tribute to mother earth.
The world awaits…discover it.