Although Cusco is unique city with many incredible sights and people, the presence of tourism makes some interactions awkward. The women and children that wear traditional dress and lead llamas through the street are very eager to pose for photographs, but ask for a fee to do so. This seems like a perfectly fair exchange, but reduces the feeling of authenticity. Tourism has become big business in Cusco so it is understandable that people aggressively sell handicrafts, food and photos to you at every occasion. The worst case is when the children are very small and are doing this instead of going to school.
To see another side of Peru we drove through the mountains out to a small village community called Chinchero. On arrival we were warmly welcomed into the house of Paulino and Vilma. He runs a runs a local orphanage for girls and also supports the local trade of weaving, giving demonstrations of the incredibly skilled process of making their fabric.
I walked around the village square where locals sit with their spreads of brightly colored blankets, scarf’s and hats. The first thing I noticed was that there were many small children, who climb, roll, fight and run their way around the market.
Paulino gave a demonstration of the traditional weaving process. It began with the use of a detergent to clean the discolored wool. He grated a white root into water and mixed it up. After submerging the wool and scrubbing it for a few minutes the wool comes out bright white.
Every step of the process uses natural products , from leaves , flowers , corn and beetles. It’s incredible the amount of different colors that can be made from these ingredients.
This was a great opportunity for the kids to record audio and take pictures. My buddy Rey was recording ambient sound of the many processes. He went up to the women weaving and thrust his microphone towards the weaving loom. Her hands silently whipped back and forth, not making a sound. This was not a problem for Rey who decided to pick up a piece of wood and knock it against her loom to create his desired sound, if not quite the accurate sound of weaving.
We then drove further out to a very small village that rarely experienced tourists. The contrast to Cusco was dramatic and felt very honest. Women and men went about their work ignoring our presence unless we spoke to them. It was sunset and they were bringing back the harvest of grasses from the fields. From a distance it looked like the grass had spouted legs and was walking it’s self back to the village. The huge bundles of grass completely engulfed the men as they leisurely ambled along followed by donkeys and cows. We gathered in the square and chatted to the local women. They enjoyed speaking to us about their homes and family as their tiny kids ran about mischievously in the kicked up dusty haze.