In a city entrenched in rich history, populated by friendly faces, frequented by faraway visitors, and situated in the clouds, I set forth in my role as the new Textile Field Liaison with Mosqoy. Cusco is a dream city for any intrepid explorer or cultural activist, as it is filled with fascinating architecture and opportunities to positively affect the lives of this region’s people. I’m overjoyed to be a part of it all, and to have the opportunity to carve a life out for myself in Cusco.
I am Nora: Wisconsinite, Badger, Samba enthusiast, and explorer. I’m delighted to share in and support Mosqoy’s vision to Educate, Preserve, and Connect, particularly in the six communities in the Sacred Valley region that comprise the Q’ente weaving collective. I look forward to my first excursion to the community of Cancha Cancha this Saturday, where we will notify the weavers of next month’s formal meeting.
So far Cusco is a fantastic, authentic and welcoming city. Its cobblestone streets weave in erratic patterns up the mountainside, but on the whole, it is relatively walkable. I was overjoyed to learn that a truly authentic Cusquenian experience awaits on each corner: from the tiny food stalls serving delicious escabeche (vegetables in a vinegar marinade) to bustling markets filled with cheap and delicious fruits. My eyes are often too big for my stomach here, however, and I often find myself mid-bite and suddenly far too full to continue noshing on my delicious food! I’m told this is due to the altitude, and soon my body will acclimate and I can enjoy a full meal again. Phew!
I’m living in the Casa Mosqoy, along with the thirteen students currently in the Andean Youth Program and Stephanie, the house RA. All have been incredibly welcoming and patient as I learn the ins and outs of Peruvian life and train myself to refrain from blurting my sentences out in Portuguese. Luckily, I think the students find my Portuñol (Spanish/Portuguese confusion) to be amusing, if not slightly bewildering. Luckily, each day that passes brings more certainty in my Spanish conversational abilities!
On my second day in town, I took the Free Walking Tour of Cusco. It was an excellent and thrifty introduction to the city, as it provided me with context and orientation. The most interesting stop was a large store that sells hand-woven textiles, hats, sweaters, gloves, and many other items. The shopkeeper helped us distinguish between “baby alpaca” and “maybe alpaca” fibers, which is an important skill to have, particularly in my position. It is also important for tourists to understand this differentiation, as there are stalls overflowing with polyester blends and cheap, manufactured versions of Peru’s signature textiles. I loved the low table in the center of the store, which was covered in clay bowls containing plants and powders which weavers use to make many different colored dyes for their creations.
Overall, my initial impressions of Cusco are overwhelmingly positive. As I try to snuggle into impossibly deeper pockets of my sleeping bag during the crisp nights and awake to a chorus of scrappy dogs, laughing students, and bouncy music in the sunny mornings, I relish the fantastic opportunity to experience Peru and to make a positive impact with Mosqoy.