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Peru >> Culture, Food and Countryside

museo larco

museo larco

I am recently back from a trip to Peru, which was so inspiring both personally and professionally.

My trip was part of a project with Light Up the World, which has a mission to end energy poverty by bringing solar power to communities that are off the grid.

While I was there, I took the opportunity to be inspired creatively and to learn about the country’s art and history. I believe your environment shapes every aspect of your life and I was grateful to better understand a slice of life in Peru.

Here are some of the highlights of things I saw and learned.

Architecture

courtyard in lima

courtyard in lima

The country bears many of it’s colonial influences in the architecture. The Spanish conquest is evident in the larger centres. What struck me the most though was the contrast.

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Depending where you were the conditions ranged from very grand stone and plaster facades, to extremely modest sod/stone construction. What was evident everywhere was the colour. Lots and lots of bright colour.

Textiles

It is very hard for me not to want to learn more about the textiles when I visit a new place. There was a lot to learn in Peru.

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In ancient Peru, the textiles facilitated trade and held greater value than gold or silver. They also recorded the history and, like textiles now, told the stories of the society.

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Cotton was the main fibre, but alpaca, llama and vicuna are also prevalent. You can see the llamas and an alpaca in the image above.

However, vicuna wool is the most highly-prized fibre. This wool can only be shorn from the animal once every three years. As the national animal of Peru, vicunas need to be caught for shearing from the wild in the high alpine areas of the Andes as they are endangered and protected by law. This makes the wool rare and therefore expensive to procure. (They are so rare, it was hard to get a good photo of one. We did see a few, but they were far, far away.)

Culture

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We were fortunate to be in country during regional elections, which allowed us to learn a lot about the political process. There are upwards of 13 political parties and citizens are required by law to vote, or they are fined. There were lots of flags, lots of parades and lots of symbols to ensure voters who do not read could also mark their ballots.

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One of our stops was to the the Museo Larco, which houses pre-Columbian art from the past 5,000 years. The museum is in a converted mansion originally built in the18th century. The building and gardens are as impressive as the collections they hold. I especially loved the trailing ferns that surround the inner courtyard.

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It is fascinating to understand a society by the things they valued. The Museo Larco’s collection includes tools, jewellery, sculpture, textiles (an erotic museum) and lots and lots of pottery...

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The museum’s reserves are a unique element of the collection, because they are displayed in glass cases visitors can wander through. It is one of the only store rooms in the world the public can access so freely.

There are 30,000 carefully cataloged pottery artifacts on display and organized by theme.Ocelots, tigers, monkeys, owls, jaguar, serpents are all animals that feature prominently in the historical collection.

Food

Our particular trip did not lend itself to a varied dining experience. Although, ceviche, corn, rice and beans are prevalent. The definitive book on the subject of Peruvian Cuisine was written by Gaston Acurio, a prominent chef with restaurants around the country, including Panchita in Miraflores, where we dined on our last night in country. It is a highly recommended stop if you ever find yourself in Lima.