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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

10/29: Pisac's Colorful Market AND Quechua Mass!

Though Machu Picchu is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Peru, if not South America, interestingly one of the most commonly requested places to visit is the town of Pisac. Located in the Sacred Valley, a rural farming region about one hour from the city of Cusco, we read that Pisac was a traditional and rustic Andean village that draws hundreds of foreign visitors every day. Founded on the valley floor in the 1570s by Viceroy Toledo, the Spanish conquistador, the town of Pisac was at the foot of an original Inca settlement. 
Saddling a narrow hilltop between two peaks at the entrance to the Sacred Valley, the ruins above the town reminds visitors of Machu Picchu in its design and setting. We read that although not comparable on scale, visiting Pisac brings the same feeling of tranquility and awe to many visitors. The reasons for building a ceremonial center on the top of a hill could be ascribed to its spiritual power, while the reasons for building the military and residential quarters on the sides of the hill could be due to its natural defenses. However, the reasons for building over 500 agricultural terraces on the side of a low hill, leading all the way down to the valley floor that provides ample flat land for agriculture, remains one of the great mysteries of the Andes. 
From Cusco, we got a bus to Pisac for under a dollar each for the hour-long ride. We’d wanted to come to Pisac that Sunday because the town’s famous jewelry, ceramics and textile market would be especially big and because the priest at the Iglesia San Pedro Apostolo celebrated Mass in the Quechua language only then.

We walked a few blocks uphill to Constitution Square which was all dressed up for a huge celebration on the last Sunday in the month, something we didn't know bout before arriving! 

Pisac Market Scenes: The artisan market at Pisac is now world famous, and although held every day, the largest market is held on Sundays, where the stalls start from the main plaza and spread into the inclined streets - leading to the foot of the mountain. 

There were literally hundreds of individual vendors, whose market stalls engulfed the streets of the town in a blanket of tables, knitted products and plastic tarps. Although many of the vendors sold similar products - knitted scarfs, trinkets, jewelry, ceramics, alpaca sweaters and other clothing, etc, - there were some stalls selling unique quality products which made wandering through the market especially exciting!
We knew that bargaining for our purchases was part of the buying process in Peru and found most market vendors knew a few English numbers and we knew enough Spanish by that point in the trip to make transactions easier.
Most markets we visited had plenty of places where locals and tourists could buy snacks or a light meal.

Part of the attraction about Pisac's market was the amazing variety of hats the local women wore. We had seen the fedora and bowler styles previously but not the upturned and flattened looks before.

These breads and pastries looked so very enticing but unfortunately they were pretty dry and we suspected they'd been baked the day before.
These were some of the biggest potatoes we'd ever seen!

Even though there was a drop of about 2,000 feet in elevation when we came out from the big city, i.e. Cusco, Pisac was still at over 9,700 feet. We saw a number of vendors selling coca products designed to help with dealing from the effects of the high altitude. We luckily didn't need any as our bodies had grown accustomed to the high elevation by then.

We munched on rolls straight out of the oven that made up for the others bought a little while earlier. The apple pastry looked yummy, too.
There were plenty of silver jewelry stalls throughout the massive market and I think I visited most of them as I was interested in buying more earrings since my gold ones had been taken when I had been mugged in Quito, Ecuador.

Judy: Either of these would make colorful puzzles for you, too!

After doing some shopping at one of Peru’s most celebrated markets, we headed over to the town's simple stone church for the 11 am Mass. 

Mass began with a procession of mostly young men and a few women, all of whom were wearing colorful ponchos and hats. I didn't feel comfortable taking any photos during the Mass which was well attended by locals and more than a smattering of foreigners. 

Not often in South America did we see a depiction of a black Jesus Christ.
As had been the case at other Catholic churches we’d been to in South America, few people went up for Communion, something I wasn’t used to. Obviously, I didn’t understand a word of what was said during the Quechua-language Mass but it was extremely moving nonetheless to witness a very different Mass. 

Once mass was over, the priest and locals, all dressed in traditional garb, walked out in single file, then stood in a circle and played instruments so their pictures could be taken. I am glad that a ‘hat’ was passed for donations.

Everyone in the town of about 4,000 people, including the day trippers like us, was then invited to share in the feast in the central square and made to feel so very welcome. 

A pitcher of the chicha fermented corn beverage I have mentioned in so many previous posts. It was potent and good, in small quantities!

The colorful colonial town was a pleasant escape for a few hours from Cusco. Luckily, both Steven and I like walking around markets although he has said on more than on one occasion this trip he didn’t want to look at any more souvenirs. As you might imagine, since this was our fifth overseas trip, we have amassed a goodly number of souvenirs by now! Steven always loves to ask me where I will put it when I am contemplating buying something!

Though it seemed initially odd seeing a health food store in Pisac, it just demonstrated how evolved the town had become over time with the influx of tourists

We had seen seven sites containing ruins by then so decided not to take a taxi up to the top of the mountain behind the church and see the ones in Pisac. Somehow, we didn’t think we’d miss too much and, even if we had, we didn’t care at that point! We could safely say we were ‘ruined out’ at the at point and wouldn’t have had been able to appreciate the agricultural, hydraulic, military, residential and religious architecture. 
We took a collective back to Cusco which cost an extra .35 each because it had padded seats! Our bums really appreciated the extra cushioning!

Next post: On to Peru's Amazon River Basin!

Posted on January 17th, 2018, from Littleton, Colorado.