A Quechua woman weaves near Cusco, Peru. Photo: Aubrey Ryan
In the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about Peru a lot. In a partnership with the Peruvian Embassy, National Geographic is hosting an exhibition to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Hiram Bingham expedition that rediscovered Macchu Pichu. The exhibition features original photographs that popularized the Inca among American readers. The free photo exhibition, housed at the National Geographic headquarters in D.C., started In June and runs until September 11th. You can see the photographs on the Nat Geo website, and also learn more about the expedition here.
But I have a personal connection to Peru as well. In the early 1990s, my family took a vacation to Peru for 6 weeks. Two small wars simmered at the time–a border dispute with Ecuador, and a civil war between Alberto Fujimori’s regime and the Shining Path guerrillas based in Ayacucho. These conflicts were largely hidden from our eyes, and if my 6-year-old senses picked up any tension, it was only for a few fleeting moments.
What I really remember are packed busses, bottle caps of Peruvian sodas, and haggling with taxicab drivers. Even today a sip of Inca Kola–the yellow, bubble-gum flavored soda–brings me back the busy streets of Lima: White-gloved policemen direct traffic across hills of grey cobblestone. Three-wheeled taxis bump along in a mosaic of blue, white, and rust. Little boys sit on black wooden boxes, waiting to shine shoes. Similarly, any photograph of a piranha reminds me of the Quistococha zoo, near Iquitos in the Amazon, where I first watched the creature’s beady red eyes through the glass of a fish tank.