Juliaca A – Life in a city close to sky.

Building in middle of heaven

building in middle of heaven

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
before the dances

before the dances

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 arrive of the train the city 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…

morning upon the apu

morning upon the apu

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.

praying to the image and praying to the clouds

Praying to the image and praying to the clouds

I went there several times, once per week, but not for the sculpture but because the hill. There are always two or three persons praying. I go because the sky looks even closer to us.

Apu's shadow

Apu’s shadow

The shadow over the city…

Spectacles of light

spectacles of light

party time in the sky

Party time in the sky (published before)

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.

a warm farewell

a warm farewell

The muscle: Trading
See! a fair deal, lady

see! a fair deal, lady

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 are always people selling food:

stop a moment

stop a moment

Trucks stop in middle of their long travels to sell fruits like pineapples or in this case bricks:

every brick a piece of a desire

every brick a piece of desire

And the night is illuminated by business and street sellers in extensive sectors of the city:

spectacular sky

spectacular sky

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:

choose your color

choose your color

And frequently we see new ways to sell, as these news seller traveling the city:

morning news

morning news

The blood: Transport systems

ephemeral heart (previously published)

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:

across the blue

across the blue

Bicycles still are widely used, specially in the corners of the city, but cars are being seen as more prestigious:

a hat for a hat

a hat for a hat

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:

morning in the plaza

morning in the plaza



red city

red city

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:

Red will

red will

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.

you can't take me to where I'm going to go

you can’t take me to where I’m going to go

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 ;-)

A rose above the clouds

a rose above the clouds

Arica – A glimpse of Chile

Playing with infinite blocks

playing with infinite blocks

Some weeks ago I mentioned to go to Arica in the Chilean North. I didn’t go, I felt so tired, like a mountain in my eyes so I opted to slept… I believe that we don’t have to force things, everything is going to come in its time, although also is good to put always an amount of effort, but my instinct said me that it wasn’t the best of the moments.

Nevertheless I created an expectative in my kind readers so, although it isn’t the same and certainly when I shot these photographs I barely knew how to use a camera, even the little compact camera of that moment, I hope to show a glimpse of this little city.

Greens and the Morro Solar

greens and the Morro Solar

Arica is in the North frontier of Chile limiting with Peru. But not always… it was Peruvian until a war in the XIX century with the English support to Chile ended with lot of territory lost, but reviewing objectively the History I conclude that the fact that we’re a country with several nations separated by enmity and the high corruption of the politics of that age made us lose the war. Said that to me is a meaningless detail, we cannot own ground, trees, seas, skies… those are artificial limits and we cannot lost what we never had; and usually our governments play that fake patriotic card to distract the public opinion when economy doesn’t march well or there are news about corruption. I don’t like to classify people by nationality and certainly I consider childish to believe the country where causality made us born can be superior to the others. In fact I consider the Arica people very polite and kind.

The Plaza in the second photograph is in a special place because the hill, called “the Morro Solar,” was the scenery of an important battle between our nations. Beyond that I guess it just exists to inflate the ego.

Children of the Morro seeing the horizon

Children of the Morro seeing the horizon

It’s in front of the Pacific Ocean. But it’s so different to our coastal cities in Peru, it’s so Europe, in fact Chile is the closest country in the continent to be a first world nation. There was a taxi driver that said us to me and my father, among other things, that he was a Mapuche native. Certainly that was clear in his race but not in his culture: he was completely westerner. I don’t write it as something negative, simply to show my surprise that the culture there was (in comparison to Peru) so European.

Once upon a time a crazy wall

once upon a time a crazy wall

 I read the report of two different travelers. They said that crossing from Peru to Chile gave them relieve because Peru is so chaotic and Chile in comparison was tranquil and more civilized. I think they’re right, I was observing the young “rebels” and in my country they would be considerer peaceful hobbyists, even more I saw this graffiti, I guess the owner see it as a vandalism (and technically it’s because it’s private property) but in my country it would be almost a work of art in a country where our walls just express without imagination loves and football sympathies.

But precisely that was something I didn’t like about Arica, the travelers I mentioned came from USA or Europe, instead I’m Peruvian and to me so much calm in a city is something like a dead body, I couldn’t understand why the business in Arica would open so late and close to go to eat, why in a little city even the markets were empty of crowds. Why everybody, although polite and kind at the same time seemed so uniformed, like a regular army. That was a reason why I was not so much enthusiastic about visiting again the city. Am I a kind of savage for think in that way? perhaps… Or perhaps the different civilization there is beyond my comprehension.

Soft light for a white building

soft light for a white building

This was one of my favorites buildings there. It’s a public building for the management of waters. It clearly has influence of Frank Lloyd Wright, specifically his Fallingwater house or Kaufmann residence. But it was a very kind building in a city with so much formality.

The kiss

The Kiss

And to the end this monument. It seems to be a military one, but I cannot avoid to think instead in abstracted lovers about to kiss. I would like to go in another chance to get better views, I think Arica has to have more interesting places, perhaps in the desert or walking around the sea. But I remember my stronger impression was to find a place so different just crossing a few kilometers outside the border.

An organic world outside the window

an organic world outside the window


I found today this old photograph from 2010. I was visiting Lima and went to an exposition of architecture students. I liked the contrast between the old building with the sculptures of the exterior. It had the feeling to be in the space, in a hipster starship with spatial whales trying to see the inside. The camera was a point and shoot of four megapixels. I think it did a good job considering that it was took at night. As I couldn’t avoid the reflection I decided to be part of the composition ;-)

Lima A – a compact camera

finesse en vermillon

finesse en vermillon

A few years ago my big brother gifted me my first digital camera, a HP R607 with 4.1MP, a little sensor and a 3X zoom lens. That doesn’t made me a photographer of course, just gave me an important tool to don’t forget what I see with my eyes.

Today I use a camera manufactured in 2005 but with a bigger sensor. I am definitively not a photographer nor I would have the time (or the understanding) to be one because my goal is to enjoy the places I visit briefly, and for that reason my most important possession are good shoes to walk the road I do with my steps. Although these photographs have eight or six years the theme and composition is the same I have now, the difference I’d say is that today I’ve a better tool. These photographs are from Lima, the capital city of Peru, a city that mostly is under a grey and boring sky but in summer is most animated, that’s my favorite season to travel there.

I'm still here

I’m still here

la rosa naútica

La Rosa Naútica

little beings in the vast ocean

little beings in the vast ocean

waiting for ancient sailors from exotic countries

waiting for ancient sailors from exotic countries

The best building could be the Interbank tower in San Isidro, it was designed by the architect Hans Hollein.

the tower

the tower

the sky is not a limit

the sky is not the limit

old morro solar

old morro solar

Icarus echoes in a happy world

echoes of Icarus in a happy world

This is an sculpture designed by an artist that could be our best plastic artist in this age: Fernando de Szyszlo, if I am not wrong his parents are of polish origins. It’s his interpretation of an intihuatana (or intiwatana)

Intihuatana at sunset

Intihuatana at sunset