Thursday, May 29, 2014


Traditional costumes from the Peru-Bolivian Andes 
Indios del Sol, or the Indians of the Sun. This is the title of a music album I remember buying when I was a teenager in France in the 1970's. At that time, the flutes, drums and guitars echoed around on the radio and TV stations the melody of a far away land, from another continent, another culture, another sound. Who doesn't remember a group called the Calchakis, a Latin American folk band formed in Paris in 1959 by Hector Miranda and his wife, Ana María García who made popular the native Andean folk music across Europe. El Condor Pasa, inspired by Andean folk tunes written in 1913 by Peruvian composer Daniel Alomía Robles effectively put Andean music on the World map partly by the adaptation made and released in 1970 by famed duo Simon and Garfunkel. All these sound bites of my youth gave me an appreciation for the musical prowess of traditional music of the Andes mountain region of South America. When I visited Peru and Bolivia for the first time in 2011, I came with some native music I had obtained prior to my trip in order to listen to traditional music while strolling the streets of my new adventures. I do this in all the countries I visit. I feel music and sights go hand in hand to bring me closer to the local culture. It also makes it for a very memorable time.

I dedicate this page in celebration of the cultural legacy of those Indios Del Sol who have largely contributed and still contribute in making this part of South America a World famous, unique and fascinating destination to explore. They are the descendants of those civilizations which spread   across the highlands of South America during a vast period of few thousand years. The most famous of which are the Incas because of the legacy they left behind in treasures and building achievements as well as being the last great civilization to master the Andean world from today's Ecuador to Argentina before the European pillage occurred in 1524.

Native ladies in parade costumes wear a bowler hat - called a bombin - . It has been worn by Quechua and Aymara women in Peru and Bolivia since the 1920s when it was introduced to Bolivia by British railway workers.

Diablada, Lima
The Diablada or Danza de los Diablos (Dance of the Devils), is a dance characterized by the mask and devil suit worn by the performers. Traditional of Puno in Peru and Oruro within the Bolivian Altiplano, the dance is a mixture of religious theatrical presentations brought from Spain and Andean religious ceremonies such as the Llama llama dance in honour of the Uru god Tiw (protector of mines, lakes, and rivers), and the Aymaran miner's ritual to Anchanchu (a demon spirit of caves and other isolated places in Bolivia and Perú). 

The origins and sense of patrimonial identity of this dance is a matter of dispute between authorities and historians of Peru, Bolivia and Chile. While Peruvian and Chilean authorities claim that the dance is proper of tripartite regional identity, Bolivia's former Culture Minister Pablo Groux claims that the dance should solely be considered Bolivian. There is a style of dance proper of Ecuador named Diablada pillareña. (taken from Wikipedia)

Diablada, Lima

Diablada, Lima

Learning early to carry on traditions, Lima

The elegant sway of Andean ladies during a parade

A Diablada character


Diablada masks strangely resemble those of Bhutan

Peru has a largely mixed population of Andean Indian Origin
Amerindians constitute around 30 per cent of the total population of Peru and Bolivia. The two major indigenous or ethnic groups are the Quechuas (belonging to various cultural subgroups), followed by the Aymaras, mostly found in the southern Andes. These 2 major groups occupy the opposite rank in Bolivia with the Aymaras being the majority. A large proportion of the indigenous population who live in the Andean highlands still speak Quechua or Aymara, and have vibrant cultural traditions, some of which were part of the Inca Empire, arguably the most advanced agricultural civilization in the world.
Literally dozens of indigenous cultures are also dispersed throughout the country beyond the Andes Mountains in the Amazon basin.

Quechua women in traditional clothes, Cuzco
Quechuas (also Runakuna, Kichwas, and Ingas) is the collective term for several indigenous ethnic groups in South America who speak a Quechua language (Southern Quechua mainly), belonging to several ethnic groups in South America, especially in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Argentina. The incas were pre-hispanic quechuas, so were the Tawantisuyu. Chancas and Huancas are two other Quechua people of highland of Central Peru. Huancas spoke Quechua before the Incas did.

Street Vendor in Cuzco
Mestizos compose more than half of the total population of Peru and Bolivia. The term traditionally denotes Amerindian and European ancestry (mostly Spaniard ancestry and to a lesser degree, Italian). This term in Peru, was part of the cast classification during colonial times, whereby people of exclusive Spanish descend but born in the colonies were called criollos, people of mixed Amerindian and Spanish descend were called mestizos, those of African and Spanish descend were called mulatos and those of Amerindian and African descend were called zambos. Nowadays, these terms have racist connotations.

Most Peruvian/Bolivian mestizos are of Amerindian and European descent, but other ethnic backgrounds (such as Asian, Middle Eastern and African) are also present, in varying degrees, in some segments of the mestizo population. 

Quechua man in Pissac, Peru
Quechua girls in Cuzco

Spinning threads, Pissac, Peru

San Blas market, Cuzco, Peru

My new Quechua friend in Cuzco, Peru. What a sweet lady. I sat with her for a good 3 hours
while she explained patiently to me (in Quechua mind you) what she was selling and how to
use it. She even fed me breakfast. Needless to say it was a game of gestures and facial expressions
 which left both of us amazed at our ability to communicate and understand each other.

Girl in traditional Quechua clothes, Cuzco, Peru.
Many indigenous women wear the colorful traditional costume, complete with bowler style hat. The hat has been worn by Quechua and Aymara women since the 1920s, when it was brought to the country by British railway workers and are still commonly worn today.
The traditional dress worn by Quechua women today is a mixture of styles from Pre-Spanish days and Spanish Colonial peasant dress. Younger Quechua men generally wear Western-style clothing, the most popular being synthetic football shirts and tracksuit pants. In certain regions, women also generally wear Western-style clothing. Older men still wear dark wool knee-length handwoven bayeta pants. A woven belt called a chumpi is also worn which provides protection to the lower back when working in the fields. Men's fine dress includes a woollen waistcoat, similar to a sleeveless juyuna as worn by the women but referred to as a chaleco. Chalecos can be richly decorated.
The most distinctive part of men's clothing is the handwoven poncho. Nearly every Quechua man and boy has a poncho, generally red in colour decorated with intricate designs. Each district has a distinctive pattern. In some communities such as Huilloc, Patacancha, and many villages in the Lares Valley ponchos are worn as daily attire. However most men use their ponchos on special occasions such as festivals, village meetings, weddings etc.
As with the women, ajotas, sandals made from recycled tyres, are the standard footwear. They are cheap and durable.
A ch'ullu is frequently worn. This is a knitted hat with earflaps. The first ch'ullu that a child receives is traditionally knitted by his father. In the Ausangate region chullos are often ornately adorned with white beads and large tassels called t'ikas. Men sometimes wear a felt hat called a sombrero over the top of the ch'ullu decorated with centillo, finely decorated hat bands. Since ancient times men have worn small woven pouches called ch'uspa used to carry their coca leaves.

Quechua lady in Cuzco market

Selling produce in Cuzco, Peru

Raqchi Wiraqocha fashion, Raqchi Peru. A large variety of clothing styles exist across Peruvian and Bolivian indigenous communities.

Sweet smile of a Raqchi lady, Raqchi Peru

Young boy wearing a traditional hat called a Chullo and poncho with his llama at La Raya, Peruvian Altiplano

Uros family on Lake Titicaca, Puno
The Uros are a pre-Incan people who live on forty-two self-fashioned floating islands in Lake Titicaca Puno, Peru and Bolivia.

Uro girl portrait, Lake Titicaca, Peru

She loved the Galletas I gave her :)

Aymara lady in La Paz, Bolivia
The Aymara or Aimara are an indigenous nation in the Andes and Altiplano regions of South America; about 2 million live in Bolivia, Peru and Chile. Their ancestors lived in the region for many centuries before becoming a subject people of the Inca in the late 15th or early 16th century, and later of the Spanish in the 16th century. With the Spanish American Wars of Independence (1810–25), the Aymara became subjects of the new nations of Bolivia and Peru. After the War of the Pacific (1879–83), Chile acquired territory occupied by the Aymara.

 The Aymara have grown and chewed coca plants for centuries, using its leaves in traditional medicine as well as in ritual offerings to the father god Inti (Sun) and the mother goddess Pachamama (Earth). During the last century, there has been conflict with state authorities over this plant during drug wars; the officials have carried out coca eradication to prevent the extraction and isolation of the drug cocaine. But, the ritual use of coca has a central role in the indigenous religions of both the Aymara and the Quechua. Coca is used in the ritual curing ceremonies of the yatiri. Since the late 20th century, its ritual use has become a symbol of cultural identity.

Coca leaves are used by indigenous people across the Andes from Colombia to Chile

Flower lady in Bolivar market, Lima

A very inquisitive youngster, Bolivar market, Lima

Reconnecting with the past, Lima
A young boy visits the anthropological and archaeological Museum of Peru, in Lima during International Museum day on May 18, 2014. Reconnecting with a not so distant past, this proud Peruvian youth is posing with an "Inca king" representing his glorious native heritage. As Peruvian society comes to terms with embracing its indigenous roots in order to secure a better future, one can only wonder what will trigger the change in its population still living with a colonial mentality of white supremacy and racial discrimination based on physical traits rather than on merit and achievements.

Thumbs up ! Morenada performer, Lima
The Morenada is a dance from the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes. The dance represents the black slaves brought to Peru and Bolivia.

Making picarones, a sort of beignet or fritter, in Lima.  .

 Picarones is a Peruvian dessert originated in the colonial period. Its principal ingredients are squash and sweet potato. It is served in a doughnut form and covered with syrup, made from chancaca (solidified molasses). It is traditional to serve picarones when people prepare anticuchos, another traditional Peruvian dish. Picarones were created during the colonial period to replace Buñuelos as buñuelos were too expensive to make. People started replacing traditional ingredients with squash and sweet potato. Accidentally, they created a new dessert that rapidly increased in popularity throughout the country.