Cusco, Peru has greeted me with beautiful mountains, incredible people, and friendly alpacas. My first event in Cusco was visiting the famous San Pedro Market, where I had the chance to talk to locals selling food products such as vegetables, fruits, cheeses, meats, and breads. Many of the fruits reminded me of the Floridian food forest I planted at a Shelter in Naples, and of course the abundance of the FGCU food forest. I even made some of the women laugh by singing the names of my favorite fruits in Spanish. “La cherimoya, la maracuya, y la granada…”— all local favorites. They let me try fresh breads and sample juices they say keeps the body and mind healthy. I have found that most of the women selling produce buy it from local farmers and then sell the products in the market. It will be interesting to learn more about how this food system works while in different areas of Peru.
I stayed in the Millhouse Hostel in Cusco, which was very accommodating. They have a female dorm, which served me well as a solo traveler. They have free tours on Saturdays at 1pm, which impressed me. I jumped on the opportunity to explore the city with locals and fellow travelers. This gave me a chance to become oriented in a group, making exploring the city alone much easier. The tour was extensive, lasting over an hour. I was able to visit many parts of the city, try local foods for free, and ask the guide many questions about food networks in the area. For those wanting to conduct research, this hostel is also very close to the Municipal Government building in Cusco (about a one-minute walk). While they did not have much research-oriented information in the building for scholars, I was able to speak with individuals working in rural development who pointed me in the right direction. My Spanish language courses came in handy, as many in the building did not speak English. With a map, they showed me the city and many places to visit such as the Ministry of Agriculture. While planning and preparation online is helpful, visiting local government gave me new ideas I could not find on the internet. In addition, I was able to go over some of my plans with them to make sure they were worthwhile (with such limited time in Cusco, it was best to make sure that it was being used wisely with the help of locals). Millhouse Hostel also collaborates with the Mantay Shelter for abused women and children. The Mantay Shelter has artisan workshops where the women staying at the shelter make craft related goods. These products are then sold in many places around the city and 100% of the profit goes back to the Shelter. I was happy to see this collaboration, as I am interested in women’s economic empowerment. I have looked into Peruvian policies related to women and children, and have found that many Shelters have vocational rehabilitation that also includes agricultural training.
June is a wonderful time to be in Cusco, as there are many local celebrations. I was able to see the Corpus Christi celebration in the Plaza de Armas. Corpus Christi is celebrated in many places in Peru, but I have heard it is most extravagant in Cusco. Sixty days after Easter the religious celebration brings everyone together near the Cathedral of Cusco. Bright and beautiful colors covered the Plaza, along with joyous music and dance. To my surprise, every ministry was represented in the celebration, including the Cusco Ministry of Agriculture! Traditional garments were worn during the dances, including intricate facemasks and beautiful handmade dresses. I even tried on this clothing during the previously mentioned free city tour.
During my stay in Cusco, the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law has been incredibly helpful. Not only was I able to talk with scholars, many of them also sent me materials related to my research in the region of Cusco and future travels in the Amazon. In addition, as a School of International Training alumna, I was able to connect with the SIT program in Cusco focused on Globalization and Indigenous peoples (which helped me to locate scholars studying these topics). I interviewed individuals at the Cusco extension of Agrorural, a National government program of Peru. Their mission is to “…design, promote, and manage rural agricultural development models that facilitate the articulation of public-private investments and contribute to the reduction of poverty and the inclusion of rural families.” In addition, Agrorural helps rural families in Peru improve their quality of life by implementing sustainable rural development plans and policies with regional, local and other social stakeholders. I learned much about the city of Cusco along with important information about the country of Peru and its agricultural trade.
Getting to and from interviews in Cusco, I primarily used Uber. Once you are set up with a driver, you have the ability to share your destinations and driver name with anyone. I found this to be helpful as a solo traveler, making sure someone knew where I would be as I was attending interviews alone. Taxi fares range in the Cusco area depending where you are. Leaving the airport, of course, there is a high charge to get where you are going. From my hostel, I found that the Uber cost me 4 soles (1 USD being equivalent to 3.27 Peruvian Sol) to travel about 10 minutes by car (and a taxi got me back to the hostel at the cost of 6 soles). However, using Uber takes wifi, and sometimes it is not an option when there is no internet connection.
Studying trade and agriculture, it was very important for me to visit the Incan archeological sites around Cusco. The Incans had fascinating and advanced systems of trade routes, and many ruins are still evidently tied to a history of agriculture. I am a student, but I was not able to get the student rate for the site because my ID did not have a date. To future student travelers, make sure you have dated documentation that you are a student before purchasing tickets! I spent the day at Saqsayhuaman, which had some of the most incredible scenery I have ever experienced. Located above Cusco, I was able to look down and see the beautiful city from an aerial view. In addition, I was able to view some of the remains of Incan agriculture by exploring terraces. I made friends with a local from Cusco who showed me a large smooth rock that many of the children in the area use as a slide. Many of the children cheered and encouraged me to go down, and I eventually got the courage.
From much of my research so far, it seems that the Cusco region of Peru is much different from the Amazon in terms of agricultural production. I am eager to compare these two regions, and update once I have traveled more around my next destination – Madre De Dios, Peru. According to the Alliance for Sustainable Amazon, “The Madre de Dios Department of southeastern Peru has been called the ‘Biodiversity Capital of the World’ – more species of plants and animals can be found here than almost any other place on the planet. A few hectares of tropical rainforest in the Las Piedras River basin, for instance, contain more species of tree than all of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the most biodiverse park in the United States.” (Alliance for Sustainable Amazon) I am looking forward to updating you about the wonders of the jungle! As I head out onto my next adventure, keep in mind there will be little to no wifi in the Amazon.
In addition, if you or anyone you know is willing to donate to my research experience, please see my go fund me page linked below. Travel based research is costly, and any help is greatly appreciated.