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My love for Peru, Inca magic, and the fact that potatoes have flowers
Journal Entry #2: Dec 19th 2022, Ilhabela Brazil
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Hello from Brazil!! We arrived last Thursday from Lima, and we’ll be spending a month and a half in the country. So far we are loving it here - it’s SO GREEN, with dense jungle bursting out of every corner, and everyone is *so kind*. That said, there is definitely a language barrier, which everyone sort of ignores, and this has led to some very comical situations. But before I tell you all about that, I have a few parting thoughts about Peru, where we spent a beautiful month.
Wow! What a diverse, culturally-rich, and beautiful country Peru is! The variance of terrain and altitudes in combination with communities living all over the country - for thousands of years - makes it such a unique place. Inca and pre-Inca civilizations flourished on this land blessed by the rich Pacific Ocean and tall snowy Andes, and it's easy to see why.
The country today pulses with the energy of the past, the legacy of so many communities and their combined knowledge base. What these many civilizations used to believe in is not simply part of a museum, but instead it’s intertwined - woven - in the fabric of society today. In this and many other ways Peru is similar to Mexico, particularly outside of the big cities. The two share being the only large civilizations that developed - independently - in the continent, and to me they feel so alike, and special in their uniqueness.
Pachamama - Mother Earth - is revered, important, taken care of. People are deeply connected to it. I suppose it's simpler to see the earth's importance when you live directly off the land, and perhaps easy to forget it when your corner supermarket is magically well-stoked at all times. When staying in the island of Amantani in Lake Titicaca the main conversation topic with our host family - and anyone else we spoke to - was regarding the drought they are currently experiencing. The entire community of the island would hike to the highest mountain every night to pray for rain. Our host Fernanda woke up every morning wondering how they would be able to survive the year if rain didn’t come soon.
"I haven't been able to plant potatoes yet… but by this time last year the potatoes were very tall and already flowering!", she exclaimed
What? I didn’t even know potatoes plants had flowers.
This, to me, is one of the most beautiful things about traveling: being surprised by how the food I have eaten my whole life grows. How could I not know pistachios are pink and have the shape of an olive when in the tree? Or that vanilla is an orchid originally from Mexico? or that cardamom grows close to the ground? My ignorance is always shocking to me, not because I don’t know (I am perfectly aware I don’t know many many things!), but because I don’t even realize I am ignorant until I learn about it. I basically had never thought about how pistachio or vanilla or cardamom grew. It wouldn't even take me a minute to Google it, but instead I go through life putting things in my mouth and never wondering how they grow, how they are picked, how they go from farm to table. And then I travel, and learning about these things feels like the biggest gift.
But I digress. Worshiping Pachamama makes sense to me, and I have always been drawn to the cosmovisión (worldview) of these past civilizations. Nature is at the center - the sun and the moon and the stars play important roles. The Incas and the Aztecs were experts on all of it. So much of it sounds to us today like hocus-pocus, but it wasn't. They could tell months in advanced whether it would be a good year for rain or not just by looking at the stars. It turns out that a specific star cluster can either appear bright or dimmed/hazy, and we know now that this is linked with El Nino phenomenon.
I could go on and on about this topic, but in summary: COME TO PERU!
Also, Lima was lovely. The way the city is perched above a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean is just dreamy. Purple bells adorn the cliff walls with their violet and white flowers. A world apart and a bus ride away is the hectic historic center, with its informal vendors and pretty balconies.
In terms of the current political situation, at least when we were in Lima things were pretty calm. We went to the city center for two days in a row at the very beginning of our stay (the day after the president was put in jail) and saw only very small and very peaceful protests. Not surprisingly the capital leans right, so most people are happy with the “criminal” - as one of our tour guides called him - being out of the presidency. Outside of Lima the situation has been different from the beginning, and the airports of many towns have been closed for many days, including Cusco’s and Arequipa’s. As of today, twenty people have been killed by police while protesting. The day prior to us leaving the government announced a state of emergency, so I guess our timing wasn't that bad after all. I hope things stabilize soon.
Last parting thought about Peru: we ate well, in particular in Lima, but I have to say that in Latin America no country beats Mexico in terms of food. Sorry, Peru, you are good, but just not *as* good. You are close to the top though, in contrast to every other country in the continent. Here is my list:
All other Latin American countries 😉
Prove me wrong!
K, see you next week!