I’m in Cusco now, fighting the altitude which I believe makes me more stupid.

I write in shorter sentences. This is kind of a problem when I have longer things to say.

So I will do what I can with shortness.

As per my professor’s request, let me now compare Cusco and Lima.

Lima:

  • Is smoggy and cloudy in the winter
  • Is loud with cars beeping all the time
  • Is cordoned off into very specific districts
  • Is sort of expensive in places
  • Has a beach
  • Has a very specific accent
  • Has taxis which are relatively expensive and apparently unsafe (I never had any problems)
  • Is home to a bunch of political artists which we met
  • Makes me feel very small
  • Is very divided by class (which somehow corresponds to race, although my friend described this to me as ridiculous: 90% of all Peruvians, he says, are “mestizo”-mixed. I can‘t tell.)
  • Has a somewhat thriving theater scene
  • Has a burgeoning gay scene
  • Seems to be a starting point for journeys around the country

And:

Cusco:

  • Usually has clear skies all day in the winter
  • Is two miles up in the air
  • Is actually rather quiet
  • Is less expensive (outside the tourist district)
  • Has a HUGE TOURIST DISTRICT. (I have never seem more white people in big hats that say “CUSCO,” shorts, long socks and tennis shoes taking pictures in front of statues picking their nose, or dreadlocked dirty hippies juggling, smoking pot, and acting more spiritual and worthy than the rest of us. I judge, and I know that he who should cast the first stone…Forgive me.)
  • Seems to use the diminutive “ito” suffix to a lot more words to make them signify something cute, or adorable, or something regarded with affection or a little more love. (Gato “cat” is gatito “little kitten cat,” bebe “baby” is bebito “cute little bundle of baby,” sopa “soup” is sopita “a delicious portion of soup,” sol “sun” is solito “that awesome thing that breaks the clouds and brightens my day.”)
  • Makes me feel VERY white and outsiderish.
  • Has beautiful mountains.
  • Seems also to be divided by class, but I do not see exactly how just yet.
  • Has no theater really that I know of.
  • Does not have a burgeoning gay scene that I know of.
  • Seems to be a starting point for western spiritual seekers who really want to talk to Shamans and take San Pedro cactus and feel one with the “apu” and generally embarrass me by proxy.
  • SO MUCH MACHU PICCU.

The differences abound, of course. There is a lot to think about. (But isn’t there always? My friends are sick with my thinking and worrying.)

One of my friends is from Cusco, and has spent much time between here and Lima. One night, before we left, he hung out with my other friend and I and we drank wine, talked until early in the morning, and it got to a point where we began to talk about Cusco.

(Friend that I mention, if you are reading this, forgive any discrepancies in my reporting. I may be reducing and generalizing, so correct me, or better yet just comment on this post and tell me how wrong I am.)

I sensed, well, forgive me for saying something so silly, but I sensed a great sadness and a great anger about the tourism in Cusco. A term that kept coming up was “selling our culture” and, from what I understood, there was also this anger that this selling was “needed to survive.”

What the fuck is tourism?

Is it exploitative or is it actually helping?

I mean, how necessary is it to walk down a street and receive nine offers of:

“Hello friend, massage?”

Or:

“40 soles para eso. Si? 30 para los gafas. Mira, mira, Rayban? Lo viste? Entonces 25 soles. 20?”

Its a little frustrating to feel at once so exploited and exploitative. It kind of seems like some S & M dance of buy buy buy buy buy.

I am a gringo, si, es verdad.

But how do I tell these people I’m not here to buy things? (Other than perhaps socks.) I’m not here to try to have some shamanic journey, I’m not here to shit on their face, and yet simply by existing here somehow I am.

How do I start a dialogue, ad where, honestly, do I stand?

I saw several graffiti paintings across several walls arriving from the airport which read:

“No se vende Peru. No se compra Peru.”

Which means:

“One does not sell Peru. Nor does one buy Peru.”

And also:

“Peru Para Los Peruanos.”

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