Monday, September 22, 2008

Community Service And A Brief History of Inca

I will be departing on October 1st for my 4th journey to the land of the Inca.
This is, perhaps my favorite trip that we deliver at MountainVision. It really offers everything...exotic destination, cultural richness, physical exertion, alpine grandeur and most of all an opportunity to give back to a wonderful little village nestled in the Andes.
Prior to discussing the wonders of the trip I want to clear up a common misconception regarding the term Inca.

It is common for folks to refer back to the "Incan Civilization". I was a Latin and Native American cultural Anthropology major and I made this reference countless times. However, this terminology isn't exactly accurate as what is usually called the Inca is actually the long standing Quechua culture. Many people also mistakenly assume that the Inca Empire spread the Quechua culture throughout the Andes region. In fact, Quechua culture originated in central Peru at least a thousand years before the rise of the Inca Empire in the early 1400's. Most scholars believe that the Quechua language spread up and down the Andes as a trade language, long before the Inca adopted it.

The word "Inca" meaning "Son of the Sun" was a title originally carried only by the Emperor of the Quechuan culture that spread across Peru, Bolivia and Columbia. To preserve his culture from the ravages of the conquistadors, Inca Manco II left the capital city of Cusco in 1536 and retreated deep into the Andes. He took with him three sons, each of whom would in turn become Inca, suffering a succession of bloody encounters with the Spanish. Manco II chose a mountain peak overlooking the Urubamba valley to build his palace. Pizarro, leader of the Spanish invaders was never able to find this secret retreat, and its existence intrigued those who followed him. All who tried to discover the lost city failed.

Four centuries later in 1911 an American historian and explorer, Hiram Bingham (who the character Indian Jones was templeted after), discovered the ruins of a lost Inca outpost cradled in the summit of a mountain called Machupicchu. This once thriving city had been abandoned probably 100 to 200 years earlier, so it was essentially grown over. After years of uncovering and now preserving, we are given the opportunity to take in the majesty that is this grand place, Machu Picchu.

We travel through the Sacred Valley for almost a week until we reach "The Lost City". One of our first stops is in the village of Chilipaua. I have become quite connected to this little "village" which really only consists of two adobe bricked buildings. This building serves as the school as well as the village meeting point for all matters to be discussed amongst the neighbors. In some cases, the school children will walk close to two miles each way, every day to learn at the school. Every trip MountainVision takes to Peru includes a service project for this school. We have painted, built and reconstructed it in each journey. This year we will take on the daunting task of actually starting to build another wing to the school which will serve as the "chapel". The community has been making adobe bricks (with the brick press we built in July) for weeks in anticipation of our arrival.

The pleasure that each of our participants feels after a solid day of work in this community is palpable. We see the gratitude on each of the villagers faces as we work together with the community in making a small difference in how they live their lives deep in the mountains. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to revisit these wonderous places and feel it is my obligation to spend a day showing our brothers and sisters in the Andes how much we appreciate them sharing their magnificent landscape and culture.

Please follow along with us on our journey from our Dispatch Page: