02/14/2014 // Qachun Waqachi Raymi // Chawaytire, Peru

qachun waqachi

The Potato Park is using Valentine’s Day to revive and adapt an Andean tradition. Young men demonstrate their value as potential husbands by preparing a potential field for sowing, and young women show their ability and tenderness as wives by deftly peeling a really bulbous and bumpy potato. Elders in the community judge each contest.

02/09/2014 // Pan Flutes // Puno, Peru

candelaria 3

Virgen de la Candelaria festival in Puno, Peru. Dedicated to the patron saint of Puno, Peru, a region where Christianity took hold especially strongly in the early years after Spanish conquest–the region’s Aymara population had always chafed under Inca rule and eagerly adopted the religion of their enemy’s enemy.

02/09/2014 // Virgen de la Candelaria Festival // Puno, Peru


Days of drinking and dancing in costumes like these to celebrate the patron saint of Puno, Peru.

01/17/2014 // Pedestrian // Patacancha, Peru


A story behind this one. Driving through the high Andes in the middle of nowhere, well above 4000m. Out the window is nothing but lush green mountaintops, grazing sheep and llamas, and rolling mists that occasionally block the view of everything else. Like something out of Lord of the Rings.

I tried to take a picture of the mist, in the foolish belief that it would appear as more than just white emptiness on a camera. It was only after I looked at the picture on my computer that I saw I had caught this woman, just chillin’, as we zipped by. This was an hour drive out from Patacancha, a tiny mountain community an hour drive out from Ollantaytambo, a touristy village which is two hours driving from metropolitan Cuzco, itself two miles above sea level in the Andes. The woman standing on the side of the mountain road, just minding her business, just as I would on an big city street corner, struck me as a reminder of how remote Andean lives are. (Depending on your frame of reference for “remote”…)

12/24/2013 // Chocolatada // Coya, Peru

chocolatada adults

The Christmas eve hot chocolate event described here.

12/24/2013 // Chocolatada // Coya, Peru


A Christmas tradition in the Cuzco area is cooking a massive vat of hot chocolate and inviting kids to come with their cups to partake. This is at Kausay Wasi, an affordable and well-run health clinic in Cuzco’s Sacred Valley. They also have Quechua-speaking health professionals, a big deal in a region where many people don’t speak Spanish. The clinic was also giving out toys–many families from Andean agricultural towns have little cash income to buy them. I volunteered to take photos.

11/11/2013 // Salt Pans // Maras, Peru


From Wikipedia, seems believable to me but take it for what you will:

Since pre-Inca times, salt has been obtained in Maras by evaporating salty water from a local subterranean stream. The highly salty water emerges at a spring, a natural outlet of the underground stream. The flow is directed into an intricate system of tiny channels constructed so that the water runs gradually down onto the several hundred ancient terraced ponds. … The proper maintenance of the adjacent feeder channel, the side walls and the water-entry notch, the pond’s bottom surface, the quantity of water, and the removal of accumulated salt deposits requires close cooperation among the community of users. It is agreed among local residents and pond workers that the cooperative system was established during the time of the Incas, if not earlier. As water evaporates from the sun-warmed ponds, the water becomes supersaturated and salt precipitates as various size crystals onto the inner surfaces of a pond’s earthen walls and on the pond’s earthen floor. The pond’s keeper then closes the water-feeder notch and allows the pond to go dry. Within a few days the keeper carefully scrapes the dry salt from the sides and bottom, puts it into a suitable vessel, reopens the water-supply notch, and carries away the salt.