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



Once, in the days when I used to talk with my lady something happened, I felt that I had given so much importance to the work and lost a chance to talk with her… So I was so angry, in that moment two women, Jehovah’s witness, to predict the bible. Those aren’t my beliefs but for courtesy I always heard, forgetting my rule to don’t hear when I’m angry because I can say bitter words.

They say me about their bible and I replied to their arguments because I read the bible so I already know where is the counterargument of any argument. They said me that to know the true religion we should see the followers, I said them that I had relatives in their religion that speak against to lie or cheat but they do it anyway just changing in their minds the words to define their actions (“it’s not lie, it’s strategy”) and my classmates followers of that religion used to fight among them… so the women changed their initial argument and said me that as humans we are bond to our nature… I simulated hadn’t heard their first argument.

As I wrote when I’m angry I can use words in a bitter way so I make a subtle observation: “Why do you have to use skirts…?” so they replied because it was for respect to God they couldn’t use in that moment something modern, then I replied “but I see your men mates using modern clothes…” then they couldn’t reply and instead tried to change the theme. My society, in the native side, works as a Patriarchal-Matriarchal system, in this system if women has to dress like centuries of years ago then we men should to do the same; if men can go to the beach naked then women can go to the beach naked. Women in my family have been independent by thousands of years… I would feel rage if some religion or politic group would come to force them to be subjugated under us. For that reason when I read the genesis I always considered that the story about the forbidden fruit (it doesn’t say that it was an apple) was about the first lie when Adam said Eve was the responsible.

I know as well that Jehovah’s witness don’t believe in trinity, but I remembered that trinity is also a concept I cannot understand. In Aymara language we cannot say what we don’t know, so if someone says “In Finland the native race is blue colored” as I’ve never seen a blue person then I have to say in Aymara something like “It’s said that in Finland people is blue” so the concept of trinity always was an impossibility to me. When kid I understood the quantic principle of uncertainty, the example of the Schrodinger’s cat was perfect because in Aymara we have that notion of yes, no, and perhaps. My knowledge of Aymara language is quite limited but I grew up in an Aymara culture so even the Spanish is modified with the Aymara structure.

The Jehovah’ witness went to another doors. But I’ve learned the lesson so when some days after that came another preachers and I was still a bit conflicted I apologized and said I couldn’t receive them.

Some apples bought in Juliaca

A red bite

A red bite

When I was in the kindergarten I used to eat apples so big that to my proportion today they would look as melons, I liked to cut them in halves patiently just with the force of my hands. I hadn’t see them since twenty five years ago until the Tuesday when I was in my city, Juliaca, searching for some gadgets that I didn’t find. But suddenly I saw these so big apples in a tricycle in the street so I bought some of them and yesterday I took some pics.

You entered the wrong neighborhood

You entered the wrong neighborhood!

To get a sense of scale this egg can be a reference of their size. Juliaca doesn’t produce but lives of commerce, so even in winter in the highlands we’ve coffee and fruit from the jungles, papas and quinoa from the valleys, products from Bolivia and fish from the sea because we are in the middle of the roads that connect the jungle with the coast and Brasil and Bolivia to the Peruvian coast.


a tree for Gin

In the photograph above I wanted to create an abstracted tree of apples with the long shadows of a machine. I don’t know if you can see it but I can and I like it. It’s quite hard to get your vision.

Lost in the forest of apples

Lost in the forest of apples

This is the doll I bought to my absent lady. Is she going to come back any day? I hope so. But meanwhile I’ll think as if that is going to happen, it doesn’t matter if it’s a question of years or never.

Size and colors

size and colors

Those are little orange and a little lucuma, a native fruit we always had and that I like to make juice because although it has a sweet taste it’s a bit dry.

The green heart of a lonely apple

the green heart of a lonely heart

And this little heart is the only memory of a girl I met a pair of years ago, it’s an interesting story I’ll tell in the next weeks. For today I hope to have awaken your appetite ;-)