Monday, April 27, 2009

Arequipa and Santuarios Andinos

We crossed into Arequipa, Peru, the jumping off point for some trekking into the Colca Canyon. We were planning on spending a night and hitting the trail early the next morning, but found Arequipa sunny with good views and vibes. So we took off our shoes and spent a few days.

Arequipa's Plaza de Armas
From arequipa and colca

Arequipa is surrounded by a few impressive volcanoes, growing conically from the plain, some of them snow-covered. With all of their aesthetic appeal it is easy to forget that they can also be imposing and possibly catastrophic. The Incas understood the devastation that the volcanoes could cause, and took steps to keep the mountains happy. They sacrificed on remote, high Andean peaks to appease the gods that had their fingers on the volcanoes' red button.

On top of El Misti, one of the volcanoes that you can see from anywhere in Arequipa, archeologists found six children sacrifices. About ten years ago on nearby Volcan Ampato, volcanic activity uncovered three still-frozen sacrifices. Juanita, the most well-preserved of the three, lives in Arequipa when she is not being magnetically imaged or genotyped.

We stopped by Museo Santury to take a peak at the Andean princess. From all of the testing, they know that Juanita died at age 13 from a precise blow to the right forehead after being marched to the top of Ampato at 21,000 feet. She was sacrificed with offerings of the Inca's best textiles and metals, probably with a ceremonial sending off to the next world. Because of the cold, Juanita, as well as the offerings made with her, are in perfect condition. You could not buy a newer looking tunic at the baby alpaca emporium a few doors down.

The museum took great pains to keep the viewings respectful, if not apologetic. We were repeatedly reminded that Juanita was a willing soldier for the cause: she rejoiced that she was chosen, and gladly took the step into the next life for her people. Maybe there was uncited evidence that she went without duress, but I found it not so credible. Human sacrifice implies violence.

From the top of the convent, with El Misti in the background.
From arequipa and colca

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