Aurora Andina Peru Homework
The City of Cusco
Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 by UNESCO. The city has also been designated the Archeological Capital of the Americas, the Historical Capital of Peru and Cultural Heritage of the Nation. In 2007, the New7Wonders Foundation designated Machu Picchu one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, following a worldwide poll. Set in the heart of the Andes Cusco stnads at an altitude of 3,400m, surrounded by green valleys and imposing peaks. In 2007 Cusco had a population of almost 360,000, triple the figure of 20 years ago, and it is still growing. Currently, Cusco is the most important tourist destination in Peru.
Pre Columbian Culture
Cusco was the capital of the Tahuantinsuyu, the Inca Empire (1200s-1532). It is believed that the city took the shape of a puma, a sacred animal. Archaeologists have also suggested that the city plan was replicated at other sites throughout the empire, for example, in Quito (Ecuador). Under the Incas, the city had two sectors: the hurin and the hanan. Each were further divided to encompass two of the four provinces, Chinchasuyu, (northwest), Antisuyu (northeast), Qontisuyu (southwest) and Collasuyu (southeast). A road led from each of these quarters to the corresponding quarter of the empire. Each local leader was required to build a house in the city and live part of the year in Cusco in the quarter that corresponded to his territory.
Francisco Pizarro arrived in Cusco on 23 March 1534, renaming it the "Very noble and great city of Cuzco". The buildings constructed after the Hispanic invasion have a mixture of Spanish influence with Inca indigenous architecture. The Spanish destroyed many Inca buildings, temples and palaces. They used the remaining walls as bases for the construction of a new city. Cusco stands on layers of cultures, with the old Tawantinsuyu built on older Killke structures, and the Spanish having replaced indigenous temples with Catholic churches and mansions.
Cusco was the center for the Spanish colonization and dispersion of Christianity in the Andean world. It became prosperous on account of agriculture, cattle-raising and mining, as well as the trade with Spain. The Spanish colonists constructed churches and convents, as well as a cathedral and a university.
Cusco is a one hour flight from Lima, the closest city to Machu Picchu and the starting point for most toursto these beautiful Inca Ruins. Once the capital of Tahuantinsuyo, there are many important Incan archaeological sites both in Cusco, the nearby Sacred Valley of the Incas and beyond.
Cusco is at an altitude of 3400m and altitude sickness can be a problem.
A major earthquake on 21 May 1950 caused severe damage in Cusco. The Dominican Priory and Church of Santo Domingo, which were built on top of the impressive Qoricancha (Temple of the Sun), were among the colonial era buildings affected. The city's Inca architecture, however, withstood the earthquake. Floods and landslide have been responsible for death and distruction throughout history. Durring the heavy rainy seasons the most affected are farmers, people living close to rivers and on informal properties on the hillsides.
Best time to visit
You can visit Cusco the whole year round. November to March is the rainy season, with rain most days. April to October is the cold, dry season. It is advisable to visit in the dry season if you want to trek.
The earliest evidence of human presence in Peru dates back to about 10,000 BCE. Early archaeological cultures include Caral-Supe, Chavín, Paracas, Mochica, Nazca, Wari and Chimú.
The Incas emerged as a powerful state in the 15th century to form the largest empire in the Americas. Andean societies were agricultural with social and economic organization based on ‘Reciprocity'.
In 1532, conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro captured the Inca Emperor Atahualpa, demanding gold and silver in exchange for his release. Although Pizarro received a roomful of gold and two of silver, Atahualpa was executed and Pizarro destroyed the Empire and imposed Spanish rule.
By the 1570s, under the Viceroyalty of Peru, silver mining had become the principal economic activity and Amerindian forced labor became its primary workforce. Independence was achieved with the military campaigns of Jose de San Martín and Simón Bolívar, however, power struggles caused political instability during the early years of the Republic.
Peru is divided into three geographic regions by The Andes Mountain Range: the costa (coast); the sierra (highlands), with the highest peak, Huascarán, at 6,768m; the selva (jungle), almost 60% of the country's area, giving Peru the fourth largest area of tropical forest
in the world. Peru, unlike other equatorial countries, does not have an exclusively tropical climate due to the influence of the Andes and the Humboldt Current, which cause great climatic diversity within the country. On account of its varied geography and climate, Peru has a high biodiversity with 21,462 species of plants and animals reported, 5,855 of them endemic.
The main spoken language of Peru is Spanish, although a significant number of Peruvians speak Quechua or other native languages. Peruvian culture is primarily rooted in Amerindian and Spanish traditions, though it has African, Asian, and European influences.
Peruvian artistic traditions date back to the elaborate pottery, textiles, jewelry, and sculpture of Pre-Inca cultures. Baroque dominated colonial art, though modified by native traditions, with a focus on religious subjects, exemplified by the paintings of the Cusco School. Indigenismo emerged in the early 20th century. Since the 1950s, Peruvian art has been eclectic and shaped by both foreign and local artistic traditions.
Peruvian music has Andean, Spanish and African roots. In pre-Hispanic times the quena and the tinya were two common instruments. Spanish conquest brought the introduction of new instruments such as the guitar and the harp, as well as the development of hybrid instruments such as the charango. African contributions to Peruvian music include its rhythms and the cajón, a percussion instrument.
Documents and Visas
You will need a valid passport with at least six months validity. Most nations don't need a visa for Peru but check with you local embassy to be sure.
Peru has both domestic and international departure taxes at all airports in the country.
You should take special care with your health in the altitude in Cusco. On arrival you should drink plenty of fresh water and avoid doing too much on the first day. It is advisable to drink bottled water. It is always recommendable to see your local travel medical centre for advice on necessary vaccinations.
It is advisable to bring US Dollars, Pounds or Euros to Peru. There are many reliable money exchanges in Cusco, which are more recommendable than changing money in the street. Always check the exchange rate before changing money.
There are many public holidays in Peru, on which the banks and other government offices are closed. However, most banks have ATMs. Christmas and Easter are major holidays and most things close. The Inca Trail closes every year in February for maintenance.
There are many internet cafes in Cusco with fast, efficient internet services, most with Skype and telephone facilities, so international communication is easily accessible.
Aurora Andina can help you with extensions to your visa.