Tuesday and Wednesday we toured a Cathedral, an Inca Temple, and some historical locations in Cuzco Valley as well as the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Our tour guide, Alex, was amazing and obviously enjoyed and valued his country and culture. He was fantastic and seemed to have as much enjoyment and awe in everything he was telling us as we expressed to him.
(Check out the photo gallery for this trip to see a picture of Alex with the five of us while shopping in historic Cuzco.)
One thing that was a surprise to me, but so sobering as I experienced it was the religious influence that permeated everywhere we went. As we toured the original Cathedral that the conquistadors had built as they imposed Catholicism on the Incas, I was spiritually overwhelmed with the most oppressive and depressing sense of despair. As we learned the effect Catholicism has had on their culture over the years and what it has turned into today, I was just overwhelmed with a deep sadness and aching pain for them. They call themselves Christians but do not actually even practice Catholicism. They have created their own form of “religion” that merges their original Animistic beliefs with the Catholic traditions imposed upon them by the Spaniards. Even today they actually proclaim proudly that they accept both religions as their own. This is shown best in the figures that adorn the rooftops of just about every abode in the mountainous regions we visited. It displays a cross to symbolize Catholicism, a set of bulls to symbolize their animistic religion, and a smattering of other figures which symbolize varying things within the two belief systems.
If you'd like to see more pictures, check out the photo gallery for this trip.