In April 2006, I was fortunate enough to visit Perú - the Sacred Land of the Incas and South America's focal point for indigenous ruins. A dear colleague of mine, native to Lima, had shared with me both beautiful stories and photographs of her homeland. Still, I stood in awe each day as I walked along ancient fortresses and through open valleys.
As a student of Latin American history, visiting Cusco was such an amazing experience. The central square, Plaza de Armas, is completely overshadowed by the local Cathedral of Santo Domingo. Once inside, I had never seen such intricate woodwork in my life - one could spend the entire day just exploring the fine details of the interior. For me, this is one of the most significant historical sites in all of Latin America. The city was overcome by Pizarro in 1535, and the colonial structures that followed stand as a testimony to the Spaniards' adoration of God (and wealth) - yet they also stand for years of abuses against the local indigenous tribes.
While everyone is familiar with Machu Picchu, I will save those photos for another day - it deserves its own presentation. However, most people do not know that several breathtaking ruins lie just outside Cusco along the Urubamba Valley. Local residents in vibrant attire hike winding trails, while others sell baby hot potatoes along the hillsides. Pisac Market is another required stop - pick up some authentic crafts, or try some corn with green peanut sauce!
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