Curiosities, traditions and legends of Peru

Spirits of the Andes mountains

In Inca mythology, the mountains, which rose from the human world to Hanan Pacha, offered a connection with their most powerful gods in the heavens. The Apu montanari spirits also served as protectors, overseeing their surrounding territories, protecting the inhabitants as well as their livestock and their crops. In times of difficulty, the Apus were appeased or invoked through offers. Small offers such as chicha (corn beer) and coca leaves were common. In desperate times, the Inca resorted to human sacrifice. Juanita, the "Inca Ice Maiden" discovered atop Monte Ampato in 1995 (now on display in the Andino Shrine Museum of Arequipa), may have been the subject of a sacrifice offered to the mountainous spirit of Ampato.

The Apu montanari spirits did not fade following the end of the Inca empire, in fact, they are still alive in modern folklore. Many contemporary Peruvians, especially those born and raised in traditional Andean communities, still retain beliefs dating back to the Inca.

The belief in the Apu spirits is still present in the highlands, where some Peruvians still make offerings to the mountain gods and trained fortune tellers, who can communicate with the Apu throw handfuls of coca leaves on a fabric and studying the messages codified in the configurations of the leaves .

Pisco Sour, bevanda nazionale

The pisco sour is the national drink of Peru whose origins date back to 1553. The base is a brandy (Pisco) obtained exclusively from the distillation of fresh musts from fermented pisquere grapes. The product can have very different flavors and aromas depending on the area and the altitude in which the vineyards are located. This cocktail is made with pisco, lime, sugar and egg white accompanied by ice and finished with Angostura. It takes almost 13 kilos of grapes to make a bottle of pisco. The word pisco means "bird" in Quechua.

Taquile, island of Titicaca lake

The island of Taquile is located within the large Lake Titicaca, its inhabitants are predominantly of the Quechua ethnic group, experts in traditional textile art that has been recognized by UNESCO since 2005 as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The craft plays an important cultural and economic role, Taquile is renowned for the high quality of its fabrics. The wool of llama, alpaca and sheep is spun, dyed with bright colors and woven in blankets and clothes. Models (pallay) and anthropomorphic drawings are passed down through the generations and represent symbols and myths that are locally important for the local population.

Examples of their work can be seen in the often multicolored ponchos, typically worn by men, in bright skirts, in petticoats worn by women, and in chullos (warm hats with ear flaps) that can be seen everywhere in the streets and markets. A curiosity of this island lies in the crochet that traditionally is a prerogative reserved for men. Taquile has a specialized school for learning craft products, ensuring the feasibility and continuity of tradition. Tourism has contributed to the development of the local economy which consists mainly of textile trade and rural tourism, which is considered an effective way to guarantee the continuity of the textile tradition.

Peru orchids

The orchids, one of the most beautiful and loved flowers in the world, are present in Peru in 3,500 different varieties. They are widespread in many areas of the country, from the coast to the plateau, passing through the most impenetrable Amazon areas. In the "Land of Orchids" (department of San Martin), there is a real natural paradise in which many kinds of these plants abound and are able to grow and develop at altitudes that reach 4750 meters above sea level. No other known plant family has reached such a degree of diversity in adaptation and complexity in shapes and colors.

It is recent the discovery of a new rare variety that has been valued at 1000 euros per single plant, it is the "Phragmipedium kovachii" today at serious risk of extinction. This orchid has a huge fuchsia flower with a diameter of 18 centimeters that comes up every seven years and has been the focus of an international spy story in which smuggled contraband, science and collecting. The first example of this orchid was collected in 2001 by Faustino Medina Bautista, a Peruvian farmer completely unaware of the treasure he had in his hands.

Quipu, the culture of knots

The quipu, annotation through nodes, was a method used by various Andean cultures (including the Inca) to keep records and communicate information. Lacking alphabetic writing, this solution, simple and portable, has reached a surprising degree of precision and flexibility. Using a wide variety of colors, arcs and sometimes several hundred knots linked in various ways at various heights, the quipu could record dates, statistics, stories and even represent key episodes of traditional stories and poems.

A typical quipu consists of a horizontal rope or even a wooden bar, from which hang any number of knotted and colored cords made of cotton or wool. Some of the largest quipu can have up to 1500 strings, and these could also be woven in different ways, adding another meaning. The various shades of color used could also have a specific meaning. So also the type of node, the position of it on the string, the total number of nodes and the sequence of the nodes could combine to create a potentially huge number of meanings.

Different types of nodes had different meanings. Secondary strings could also be blocked by any single string and these could indicate that this string was an exception or of secondary importance for the other strings. Finally, the individual quipu could join the others in a specific and meaningful sequence. The interpretations of these nodes are many and this because there is not enough documentation to explain the various meanings that the quipu can express, the only text that talks about it was written in Spanish by the author Inca Guaman Porna de Ayala.

Holidays and eating habits of Peru

All the Peruvian festivals are accompanied by large banquets, a practice that seems to have a long tradition in indigenous and Spanish cultures. The typical indigenous celebrations, such as the Inti Raymi (summer solstice), are accompanied by a large roasting of meats (such as llama, piglet of lndia, pork and lamb) and by the ritual drinking of chicha de jora (corn beer) ). During the Holy Week, the consumption of meat is limited for religious reasons for which we resort to a wide range of dishes based on fish, mainly cod (bacalao), as well as the fanesca, and humitas (cakes of corn and cheese) to which the beans are always added. Humitas are very popular because they were originally made only for the observation of the Holy Week, but in recent years they have become part of the national cuisine that is found in restaurants and grocery stores.

Humboldt current of the Pacific

Humboldt's current owes its name to the German scientist Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt who first discovered it in the early 1800s. The Humboldt current moves from south to north, flowing along the coasts of Chile and then Peru. cold water up to the equator. This current has two fundamental functions: the first is to mitigate the climate by making it less hot than in countries at the same latitude, the second is to make this part of the sea one of the most fishy in the world. Its action, combined with that of the trade winds that move the surface layer from the water, favors the ascent of numerous species of plankton that, consequently, attract large quantities of fish.

This cold current is also responsible for the formation of low mists, sometimes persistent along the coast (as in the capital Lima) that only thin out during the hottest hours, also does not favor bathing even in the summer austral period.

Inca construction technique

All the buildings, the walls and the portals of the entire Inca empire were made with stones of different sizes without using lime. These stones or boulders, sometimes as huge as those of the Sacsayhuaman Fortress, were cut and polished so precisely as to allow a perfect coupling between them, so much so that not even a credit card can be inserted into the cracks that remain visible. In addition to the obvious aesthetic advantages of this style of construction, there are other and more important technical advantages. Peru is a seismically unstable country, both Lima and Cusco have been destroyed by earthquakes and the same Machu Picchu was built on top of two fault lines.

 When an earthquake occurs, it is said that the stones of an Inca building "dance", that is, they bounce through the tremors and then return to their place without particular consequences both for the population and for the buildings themselves. Without this method of construction, many of the best known buildings in Machu Picchu would have collapsed a long time ago.

The living Andean culture

Quechua are often described as the direct descendants of the Incas, but this characterization is too simple. The great Inca Empire, actually consisted of a small ethnic group that ruled only for a short period of time (1438-1534). The history of the Quechua people began many years before the Inca civilization came to power, and continued to evolve in the period following the arrival of Spanish conquerors and settlers in the 16th century.
Today Quechua is recognized as a co-official language alongside Spanish and in some Andean regions, bilingual intercultural schools offer education in Quechua. Furthermore, the traditional practices of the Quechua people, with their artisan fabrics and immediately recognizable clothing, have become an integral part of national identities and an integral component of the way in which countries sell themselves as tourist destinations. Festivals like Inti Raymi in Cusco, conducted from beginning to end in Quechua, are the main attractions that highlight this indigenous heritage.

Currently there is no sense of a unified "Quechua nation", there is an incredibly rich series of living Andean traditions that coexist within the dominant mestizo culture. In rare and remote places, the communities are still organized as ayllu (social and political entity), self-sufficient networks of families that keep pieces of land in common with each other's work obligations. Economically, an ayllu depends on subsistence agriculture and pastoralism to survive. The houses are basic, made up of brick or stone walls and thatched roofs. Craftsmanship plays an important cultural and economic role. Some communities, such as Chinchero and Taquile, are renowned for the high quality of their fabrics.

The wool of llama, alpaca and sheep is spun, dyed with bright colors and woven in blankets and clothes. Each community has its own models (pallay) and anthropomorphic drawings that have been passed down through the generations and communicate symbols and myths that are locally important. Examples of their work can be seen in the thick and multicolored ponchos, typically worn by men, in bright skirts and petticoats worn by women, and in chullos (warm hats with ear flaps) seen everywhere in the streets and markets. The colorful fabrics of the Quechua and other indigenous groups are now internationally recognized motifs.

Musical genres in Perù

In Peru Salsa is very widespread, a genre that originated in the inhabitants of all South America and Central America, which in the seventies reached the capital. Now in Peru the sauce has diversified in styles ranging from the Cumbia of the capital to the sauce of the North and that of the Amazon region, called "Wild Sauce" to the Chicha "Salsa of the Andes". But also and much followed the Salsa oltreconfine in particular way that Puerto Rican and Cuban. The sauce has become today the second most popular genre in Peru, especially in the port city of Callao; also among the young people is very much followed the genre Reggaeton, a sort of dance music that became popular in the early nineties and spread among the public of North America, Europe, Asia and Australia during the early years of the XXI century, is hip hop. Other popular musical genres are Samba, Merengue and Afroperuviana music.

Andean traditional wedding

In some Andean areas, marriage preserves the characteristics of ancient times. There ceremony lasts three days and begins with the delivery of gifts from relatives, material gifts such as rabbits, hens, lambs, fruit, etc. which then will become the food to be consumed during the party lunch. There is no lack of gifts in money or in the workforce necessary to build the house. The first day of celebration ends when the parents and godparents accompany the couple in the bedroom and here, once the candles are extinguished, the godparents will explain to the spouses that the period of youth has ended and hence begins the life of a couple that must be full of affection and mutual assistance.

Left the bride and groom, the guests continue the festivities with dances and songs until late at night. The next day the celebrations resume in the parents' home of the couple and end on the third day in the house of the godfathers.

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