Thursday, January 21

A virtual tour of Peru through movies, food, books and music | Peru Vacations

There’s something appropriate about a virtual guide to Peru. For aspiring conquerors, it was a land of fantasy and imagination. The very name of the country would have conjured up illusions of untold treasures, Inca emperors, wild beasts, and pagan practices. Lima was the seat of the South American imperial territories of Spain for 300 years; it was where you had to be if you wanted to acquire loot, land, or influence. But it was crisscrossed by impassable mountains and treacherous rivers, fringed by dark jungles in the east and uncharted seas in the west.

Explorers also chased visions and mirages throughout Peru. Francisco de Orellana, the first European to explore the Amazon, in 1541, reported on pitched battles between female warriors drawn directly from myth. The “discoverer” of Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham, called one of the sites he unearthed the “Plain of Ghosts.” Archaeologists are still searching for lost cities and occasionally find one, as happened in 2002 when a team led by American Gary Ziegler and British writer and explorer Hugh Thomson identified Cota Coca in the Vilcabamba area of ​​southern Peru.

Black and white photograph of British writer and explorer Hugh Thomson (left) and American archaeologist Gary Ziegler.
British writer and explorer Hugh Thomson (left) and American archaeologist Gary Ziegler. Photography: PA

But to get into the skin of this huge and diverse country, you must be open to contemporary society, as well as ancient sites, political realities, and dreamlike visions. Peru is one of the nations with the greatest cultural richness in the Americas and its indigenous peoples continue to play an important role in daily life; It is sometimes said that the depth of the Andean experience can only be felt by running your fingers through one of the beautiful hand-woven textiles. Until that’s on sale again, here are some less tactile encounters.


Lost City of the Incas (1948) by Hiram Bingham is a natural place to start a trip to Peru. “Few romances can beat that of the granite citadel atop the sheer cliffs of Machu Picchu, the crown of the Inca Land,” he wrote. In an era of comfortable minibuses and trains, his fantastic mule and foot rides are a reminder of old-school adventures in South America. If you prefer more recent books on intrepid travel, The White Rock (2001) by Hugh Thomson is exceptional; Thomson spent more than 20 years exploring the Sacred Valley and other regions of the heart of the Incas, and his book provides historical clarity and geographic context.

Cover of the book Llosa for Aunt Julia and the screenwriter

Peru’s most famous indigenous writer is Mario Vargas Llosa, a leading figure in the Latin American boom who, in the 1960s and 1970s, claimed the history, culture, politics and culture of the continent. towns as its own, and not as an incipient iteration of European or American development. Although he is not a magical realist, said Vargas Llosa, in The real life of Alejandro Mayta (1984) – his raison d’être for inventing stories when Peru was going through its darkest days of dictatorship, terrorism and political corruption: “No matter how ephemeral it is, a novel is something, while despair is nothing. As it is impossible to know what is really happening, Peruvians lie, invent, dream and take refuge in illusion. Due to these strange circumstances, Peruvian life, a life in which very few actually read, has become literary ”.

Vargas Llosa’s narrative range is formidable, which earned him the Nobel Prize in 2010. An early collection, The puppies and other stories (1959), evokes the Peru of his youth and explores machismo, school and university life, and the joys and pushes of the neighborhood. Aunt Julia and the screenwriter (1977), perhaps his most popular novel, is a comedy about the culture of love and the soap opera that do not coincide. Death in the Andes (1993) is a detective novel set in the context of the Sendero Luminoso guerrilla uprisings.

In recent decades, many Peruvians have migrated to the United States. American girl (2001), by Marie Arana, former editor of the literary pages of the Washington Post, is an intimate and deep memory about growing up with a Peruvian father and an American mother; He has also written the novel Lima Nights (2009) and an acclaimed biography of Simón Bolívar.


Klaus Kinski in a scene from Fitzcarraldo.
Klaus Kinski in a scene from Fitzcarraldo. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

Peru is fertile ground for adventure stories, and Bingham’s book sparked a widespread fascination for “Indian” treasures and ancient sites. Charlton Heston plays archaeologist-explorer Harry Steele in Paramount’s fast-paced adventure Secret of the Incas (1954), a film that stands out for being filmed in locations in Cusco and Machu Picchu. Steele, who sports a high-top felt hat and a well-worn leather jacket throughout, was the Indiana Jones model.

Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo (1982) It also revolves around expats in exotic locations, but it’s a completely different beast. Based on the exploits of the Peruvian rubber baron Carlos Fitzcarrald, it presents Klaus Kinski as a crazy dreamer who tries to transport a steamboat over the Andes and build an opera house in the remote city of Iquitos. It is almost a road movie, in constant motion, except that there is no road, but a tangled jungle and whitewater rivers. As Fitzcarraldo, the self-proclaimed “conqueror of the useless”, announces to his incredulous public: “As true as I am here, one day I will bring the great opera to Iquitos. I’ll leave you behind I will outnumber you. I will surpass you in billions. “

Photo of the snow-capped mountains of Peru in Touching the Void, 2003.
Touching the Void, 2003. Photograph: Allstar Picture Library / Alamy

The challenges of actually facing the Andes are revealed in Touching the void (2003), about the drama that unfolded for Joe Simpson and fellow climber Simon Yates when they fell from the ice-covered northern mountain range of Siula Grande in the Huayhuash mountain range in central Peru. This gripping film is a faithful rendition of Simpson’s book, where he writes that even while enduring unspeakable pain, he crawled out of the crevice “to behold the most stupendous sight he had ever seen. The ring of mountains that surrounded the glacier was so spectacular that I barely recognized what I was seeing … I could see ice fields and delicately ridged mountain ranges, and a dark sea of ​​moraines curving out of sight from the glacier’s nose … I was silent and stunned, unable to accept that I was finally free again. ”Parts of the film were shot on location and are the closest most people will want to get to the top of Siula Grande.

By claudia sosa The Milk of Pain / The Scared Tit (2009) was the first Peruvian film to be nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film. By linking violence against women with social and political violence perpetrated by state and paramilitary agents during the 1980s, the film offers a grim and stark version of magical realism.


Standing llama at the Machu Picchu viewpoint in Peru.
Call in Machu Picchu. Photograph: Don Mammoser / Alamy

Most of the online presentations of Machu Picchu are only slightly better than the panoramas taken by amateur photographers. But you visit virtual guide It is high resolution and beautifully lit by Andean sunlight. Offering panoramic views, close-ups, patios, cliff edge views, and most importantly some cute alpacas cruising along the stone walls, it will whet your appetite or spark some fond memories. Click on the “higher resolution” tab to see a movie on how the images were taken; another movie, labeled “Huayna Picchu,” also contains decent moving images.

Ceremonial drum with painted creatures, Nazca culture, Peru, AD500.
Ceremonial drum with painted creatures, Nazca culture, Peru, AD500. Photography: Alamy

Lima’s Larco Museum It is a private but world-class collection of pre-Hispanic vessels, ceramics, gold pieces, jewels and erotic objects, spanning 5,000 years, with items from almost every corner of the country produced by Mochica, Chimú, Nazca and many other civilizations.

Peru celebrates its bicentennial this year. On July 28, 1821, after nine years of war with colonial forces, José de San Martín declared independence from the former viceroyalty of Spain. In fact, the fighting continued until 1826, but once Lima was taken, the fate of South America was more or less sealed. Epimetheus gives a 10 minute potted country history, ideal for beginners; this Video in Spanish focuses on the period of independence.


Along with Chile and Bolivia, Peru often boils down to what people vaguely know about Andean music: pan flutes, ponchos, and tiny guitars made from armadillo shells. But Peru has a rich, multiracial musical heritage and has long been a major producer of local genres and rhythms, as well as hybrid, pop, and rock music.

The fifties superstar Yma Sumac, who had a cameo in Secret of the Incas, was a talented coloratura soprano with a range of five octaves; You can listen to their exotic fruity songs on the three-CD compilation The Quintessence (2019). Perhaps the coolest music to come out of Peru is Chicha, which flourished in the 1960s and 1970s and fused surf rock, cumbia imported and traditional psychedelic rhythms, guitar sounds huayno. Compilation The Roots of Chicha (2007) and Vision of Ayahuasca (2019) by Los Wembler’s de Iquitos they are excellent introductions to the scene.

Beginning in the 16th century, Africans arrived in Peru through Brazil and the Caribbean, generally as slaves; today, there are up to 3 million Afro-Peruvians (census data are scarce). Afro-Peruvian classics: the soul of black Peru (1995), compiled by David Byrne for his Luaka Bop label, includes songs by famous singers Susana Baca and Eva Ayllón, as well as lesser-known artists.


Close-up of delicious traditional Peruvian ceviche in restaurant
Ceviche. Photograph: Getty Images

Ceviche classes are on the Internet; Basically chop up really fresh white fish and dip it in lemon juice and you can’t go far wrong. Another local classic, the whyIt is a cold layer cake made with potatoes and other assorted fillings. London-based chef Martin Morales offers a vegetarian causa cooking class at Youtube, and you can listen to his program Peruvian Road Trip for Radio 4 in the BBC iPlayer.

To learn about Peru’s pisco sour cocktail and watch a bartender make one, visit the website of Gran Hotel Bolivar in Lima.

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