Madaru moto - motorbike adventures in South America
The next day I went with Adelina to a government registration office, and the following day had to get my passport verified by a lawyer. She said my plates should be issued on the 5th January. I was in for a wait of two weeks, but... Yippee!Christmas and New Year were looming in Cusco.
And Santa Claus wasn't the only distinguished person to visit Cusco, as this sign in the main plaza announced:
The SAE club in Cusco was having its 2011 Christmas Party on the 15th:
I went along and enjoyed some hot mold wine and a variety of dishes only matched by some entertaining live music.
Here is a sample of the live music:
On the 21st December I saw this announcement on the news-stands: Evo Morales, the Bolivian President, would be visiting Cusco the very next day.
I got straight on the phone to my friend Christo, interrupting a birthday lunch he was hosting for Tsuneko, his Japanese wife. I knew he would be interested in seeing Evo, as his former business partner, Emma Cucchi, had been a friend of Evo when he was a cocalero, or coca producer. Emma had been expelled from Bolivia by the former regime, who seemed to take a dim view of her vision of promoting the raw coca leaf as a health product. Together with Emma, Christo had established a new, non-profit foundation whose original stakeholders included a Peruvian Bishop and two Spanish friars; initially they sold coca tea and sweets from a shop inside Cusco's Santo Domingo church. When Evo was elected, he invited Emma back to Bolivia and re-instated her as a welcome visitor, one who promoted the widespread use of coca leaves as a healthy, natural product; one that has been used by Andean people for thousands of years; and obviously, not as base for narcotics. Christo was incredulous at first, but after checking for himself on the internet, we arranged to meet early the next morning at Cusco's Palacio Municpal, with the hope of seeing him.
At the Palacio Municipal, lots of security was evident.
We thought maybe we might not be allowed in, but Christo bumped into an old friend who worked for the Alcalde, or Mayor; we were invited inside to listen to Evo's speech. So in we went, and after a long wait, during which the entire hall filled with several hundred dignitaries, listened to both the Peruvian and Cusco anthems, followed by the Bolivian anthem, during which Evo raised his left fist.
I even managed to shoot a hand-held gigapan at this moment:
The Peruvian speakers gave Evo a hearty welcome, and talked about universal brotherhood, and the insignificance of the borders drawn up between the two countries. Evo spoke about he remembered first coming here by a long and dangerous bus trips, when he was a cocalero, and how he never dreamed that he would ever come back as President. Evo said he planned to spend Christmas at Machu Picchu, which he was looking forward to showing his children. The Cusco delegation then presented Evo with some gifts. First was a varayoc, a staff traditionally held by Andean leaders:
Next they crowned him with a chullo, a home-spun wool hat
and then a golden statue of Pachacutec, the Inca ruler who, most historians believe, built Machu Picchu
After Evo's reception, it was announced Cusco's soccer team were to some on stage to receive an award from the Mayor; Evo was leaving for Coricancha to meet with the Peruvian President, Ollanta Humala. Christo and I seemed the only ones in the audience to get up and leave at that point. We walked the half a mile or so down to Coricancha, which in pre-Columbian times was the greatest temple of the Incas, but looted of its gold treasure and now the site of a Dominican church. It has been speculated that there were pieces of gold inside the mysterious T-sections, one of which is plainly visible on the exterior of the church:
In some places you can still see special niches where mummified Inca kings and queens reposed. Incidentally Coricancha is where I first met Christo in 2002, when he ran the coca-shop inside with his co-founders Emma, and a local Bishop. Security was tight at Corichancha as well:
There was lots of security, but the only protester I saw was this old lady, waving Peruvian, Bolivian and Cusco flags, chanting something like "Don't sell us short". Christo said he saw that lady often protesting at various places over the years.
When the motorcycle escorts arrived we knew someone important was coming:
President Humala was the first to arrive; that's him in the red tie.
There was a media scrum trying to get a photo of him... including my friend Christo!
Evo arrived to lots of cheers from the crowd who had been gathering , no doubt wondering just what was going on.
Somehow Christo was able to force his way in and got to shake Evo's hand.
...just before Evo dissapeared behind the big wooden doors.
Inside, the two Presidents signed an accord dubbed "The Cusco Declaration". Among the topics they discussed were a new rail line between the two countries, establishing a Quinoa research foundation, and discussed Bolivia's claim for an outlet to the sea, which it lost in a war with Chile in the 1800s. Online report here (in Spanish).
The next day, however, Evo's meeting with the Mayor and President played second fiddle in the local headlines, when it was tragically reported two young boys, only 10 and 11 years old, were killed on a hill overlooking Cusco when a live grenade they were playing with exploded.
Such a tragic event, so close to Christmas; the newspaper said the boys were from una familia humilde - a humble family. That story troubled me for quite some time.