Juliaca is my city, the place where I born and the place that define part of who I am. I want to dedicate this post to my friend Dan in the far Romania for whom I hope this can show a bit of what probably is an exotic city even in Peru.
Our city is at 3825 meters above sea level (12,549 ft.) in the Andean plateau, in a region near Bolivia and the old lake Titicaca. Among the several civilizations coming from the deserts of the coast, the highlands and the jungles the main and more numerous are the Aymara (my group), the Quechua and the Westerners from the coast. If I had to abstract the city it could have the following parts.
The heart: Apu Huaynarroque
Can you see the almost triangular hill? That’s the Apu (sacred hill) Huaynarroque. This is the heart of the city for at least three thousand years. Probably the name was originally Xullaca or Hullaqa with the meaning now long time ago forgotten. We were a city usually under the domain of several Empires and Kingdoms, first Uros civilizations, after that Aymaras Empires, Kingdoms of Collas and Lupaqas, the Inca Empire, after that the invasion of Spain that couldn’t erase us, after the independence we still grew and with the coming of the train we recovered the richness of old times with trade.
But the connection across those ages always was and is the Apu Huaynarroque, the sacred hill with two peaks because the unity has inside symmetries, one, two, three, until seven symmetries…
With Spaniards came the Roman church, with their figures of a Christ with blood and suffering, their divinities saying that the guilt is genetic and the pleasure is forbidden until the afterlife. So different to our religions where life is enjoyed and we say thanks to the Earth and to Sky and everything is connected and we are made to be happy. So Spaniards imposed a big cross in the top of our Apu and centuries after when Spaniards were just in History books their descendants made a sculpture of Christ, a big one in the top of the sacred hill.
I went there several times, once per week, but not for the sculpture but because the hill. There are always two or three praying there. But I go because the sky looks even closer to us.
The shadow over the city…
Being the most sacred place this is where the most important parties for our civilizations always occurs. Our muted colors are dressed with intense colors. But my favorite ones are the colors of sky at dusk.
The muscle: Trading
Everybody in Juliaca works trading because we are connected with the coast the jungle and near countries, so people sells hundreds of varieties of potatos, corn, exotic fruits and animals from the jungle, fish from the lake Titicaca and the sea, fine clothes from Bolivia and made in the old cities, laptops, photographic cameras and products from the black market that are impossible to get even in the capital. Sadly there is this side of the illegal trading too, in part because the State (except the tax office that is the only efficient organism) is a distant rumor: we are not only in the geographic frontier but in a social frontier. Everything works like in a parallel side without government.
In the streets and public parties there is always people selling food:
Trucks stop in middle of their long travels to sell fruits like pineapples or in this case bricks:
And the night is illuminated by business and street sellers in extensive sectors of the city:
Since the origin of the city thousands of years ago until our modern days we always have preferred as a symbol of status products of brilliant colors, usually in our historical tricycles:
And frequently we see new ways to sell, as these news seller traveling the city:
The blood: Transport systems
The train is what made the explosive growth of Juliaca possible. The English engineers came and go and after them at the beginnings of Twentieth century Italians came and developed the trading of Alpaca wool, recovering something of our previous richness, according to colonial documents after the Spanish invasion some particulars could have 20, 000 heads of Alpaca livestock. The train connect us with Cusco and Arequipa, still is used by tourists but mostly for enterprises.
Also we have an international airport so our sky also is filled with the noise of planes and some times the fighters of the Air Force:
Bicycles still are widely used, specially in the corners of the city, but cars are being seen as more prestigious:
Motorbikes and modified motorcycles are gaining much popularity because the city with near a quarter of million of population is quite big for use the old tricycles:
Aguayos, they are textiles where ladies carry merchandise or babies in their back, it’s my favorite way of transport (but I’m not a baby anymore hehe) and the patterns indicate the city and region where it was woven, they are in the places of the Inca Empire but in Juliaca still you can see more than other cities:
But the pillar in our city is the tricycle, the city surrounding the Apu actually is a flat surface so they don’t require a big effort. In the beginning they were used mostly to move merchandise but they evolved so they could take passengers, I like much more to use tricycles than closed cars or mototaxis. It feels to me so free and noble to be moved with the force of a human being.
I know that it’s not the best of the photographs (I was trying instead to portrait the lady and her shadow) but it’s just an introduction to the following post in the following weeks.
A little rant
Usually to westerners (and not just the foreign visitors that need to travel to Bolivia, Cusco or Arequipa but also Peruvians from the coast) Juliaca has the fame of an ugly city. Actually it’s not a touristic city, we are forgotten by the governments because we are seen as wild natives, and a big percentage of population came recently from the countryside without knowing that the city is different creature to their communities in the nature (for example they drop garbage to the street thinking it as an “outside”), so the city grew without urban planning and without professionals to educate. But there is the mistake to consider us as a kind of inferior people. With education we can reach high levels as any human on the Earth. But prejudices win and we, once a high culture with interest in genetics, continental trading, mystic philosophy and a diverse society, are considered like wild people that should be banned to another country, the city nuked and replaced by the noble and Westerner culture from the coast… while they respect and worship their robbers and dangerous people as heroes just because they are Westerners as well (in USA it could be similar perhaps to gangsta music I guess, I hear it but I don’t share the message in those songs of inevitable fate for born in a specific place)
Fortunately we don’t have two plagues:
- American, European or government “help” in the form of donations that turn the towns around us in pools of poverty because people find easier to find an excuse to survive without work (for example they sell the jackets donated to them in winter) and no one reason to get education.
- Tourism: tourists want to experience the “real” life so we should use our party clothes every day, we should just live in adobe homes (and not from the Imperial style but that Spanish kind that wasn’t appropriate to us for climate differences) and we shouldn’t have TV’s, tablets or cell phones with touchscreens and if we don’t take a shower the better because that way we look darker and wilder to the lenses of the photographers (as the guys that come from the capital) so they can appear as sensible people touched by the poverty (LMAO!).
If those two plagues had been in my city instead of a person capable to understand you dear reader I had been a young man asking you one dollar to survive with a disguise living in the worst conditions. For that reason every time when I read in internet travelers about the ugliness of our city (and I respect the right to say that because it’s the truth) I always feel the need to explain why my city, and I’m proud of it, is ugly, I’m not to alter the post to show it as a beautiful city, it’s not, but also I’m going to show that there are nice places too. And I hope to give an answer to the occasional reader that could come looking for data :-)
But until then a piece of beauty from my parents’ garden ;-)