Unfortunately, our first full day in Cusco fell on a Sunday. I’ve grown to hate Sundays in Latin America. Everything is closed and its tough to do anything: buy things, find restaurants, see attractions, etc. I prefer the Asian way where most places are closed for a day or two, but not everything on the same day. We began our day by going to a bakery, but it was (of course) closed. We did however find a pair of tamale ladies who seemed to be popular. We bought a few spicy and a few sweet tamales, all of which were delicious. Joylani confirmed that they’re at the same spot every morning, so I think we have our breakfast spot for the next ten days.
Plaza de Armas
Much of the day, we just wandered around town exploring. Being Sunday, most things were closed, so we couldn’t really do much else. Many of Cusco’s attractions were closed and not many restaurants were open. We saw a couple bookstores with some English material, but they were all closed too. Stupid Sundays. I’ve kind of been starved for English, since English-language reading material is scarce in Latin America. Aside from the Buenos Aires Herald, there’s been no English newspapers in Chile, Bolivia, or now Peru. I contented myself with reading an old GQ at our hotel. The magazine (like most such magazines) is complete junk, but I was so starved for non-guidebook literature that I read the only two real articles it contained: one about a middle-age guy spending a month at a high-school in Ohio and another about that priest that murdered the nun in 1980 and was just convicted in 2006. Foodwise, we did find a hole-in-the-wall place for lunch, which served up less-than-hot set lunches. Afterwards, I promised myself only to eat set lunches before 1pm, when hopefully they’d still be hot. We had a pretty good dinner though, at a tourist restaurant. Although the food here cannot compare to anything we ate in Asia, I am very, very thankful for the food. It is a million times better than the food in Bolivia.
original Inca masonry still provides the foundation for much of Cusco
Perhaps the most interesting thing we saw today was a festival going on Plaza San Blas, which is only a block and a half from our hotel. I think it was a joint Christian-Inca festival, celebrating both the birth of Jesus and the Summer Solstice symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness. There was a nativity scene/play, with kids doing all the acting, plus teenagers dressed as Romans on horses, others dressed like Arabs supposedly depicting the wisemen, and a man dressed as Herod. Later, there was traditional dancing led by an angel. I was kind of confused by it all to be honest. The odd thing was all the drinking. I mean Catholics get a bad rap for being drinkers, but this was ridiculous. I’ve never seen so many people drinking at a religious festival. There were several beer stalls set up and everyone was drinking. Hundreds of people getting drunk at a religious celebration. As the festivities ended, it was funny to watch dozens of drunk men stumble every which way out of the square. Worse though, was all the piss. People were drinking so much with nowhere to go. People pissed against the church walls, against the walls of the square, in the plaza grass, everywhere. We even saw a woman squatting the middle of the street peeing! The whole square smelled like urine and large parts of the plaza were wet with piss puddles and runoff. Totally disgusting, but interesting at the same time. At least the festival gave us something to do and see on an otherwise boring Sunday.