Thursday, February 27, 2014

Striking in Cuzco

I got up today fully knowing I wouldn’t be going to work, so I slept in; a much needed break after the adventures of the last few days.  Around 8:30 I got up.  My first reaction was to check the window to see if cars were passing by.  Traffic was below a normal level but still existent.  I was curious so I asked when I should head out to take pictures.  Sandro told me around 9 or 10 should be great.  Unfortunately I did not have a functional camera in my possession.  I called Samir repeatedly, then eventually went to ProWorld to contact him via internet and to get his home’s phone number.  I finally reached him around 9:30.  I prepared the blogs a bit before his arrival at 11.  We hung out and he started planning his jungle trip since it was raining.  In a few minutes all was well with the weather, so we set out to walk to the plaza.  It was crazy; soccer and volleyball were being played in the streets, and almost no cars were present.  I was told that the cars that could be struck with rocks if they decided to try to break the strike.  Not worth the attempt.  Walking in the middle of the street was enjoyable.  Nothing disturbed the peace minus a few motorcycles, 2 ambulances, and some police.  They would move the barriers to pass, and people had no problem letting emergency personnel through.

The plaza was great.  Many people huddled around Catedral to hear the words of an announcer.  Because of the low quality speakers I made out very few words from his mouth.  It seemed that they were saying something to the nature of “sdkfjshafkjshfsjdhfsd CUZCO oiucnjavduio uio STRIKE klshuzxviod dsfsh sdhuissdf GAS sdkfoopiewpqub….”  Still, I got some iconic photos with the flags and the epic backgrounds of the Plaza de Armas.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

For lunch we went to the delicious Israeli place.  Samir’s family joined us, and I enjoyed their company a lot.  My Spanish is much more advanced now, so chatting with them came quite easily.  They thought it was interesting that I was combining physics with medicine.  The meal was great for both the company and the food.  Afterward, we introduced Samir to San Blas, a cool area above the plaza but still very touristy.  We went higher up than I’d been before, and discovered some great outlooks over the city.  Very cool. 

After that I took a taxi home (it was safe to drive by this time), I worked on blogs/photos/laundry, then headed back out to dinner with the ProWorld peeps.  We found a great place near the plaza that I fully expect to re-visit.  The soup was delicious, as was the pizza I’d been longing for. 

An interesting side-story is that the girls who decided not to walk with us had a much longer adventure than we did.  Last night more rocks were piled on top of the mound in the middle of the road that prevented the buses from passing, then it was lit on fire.  Therefore, there was no hope of their bus getting to the city.  Throughout the day I kept tabs on them, and nothing much happened until they finally arrived home at about 6 PM.  

Throughout the day I was collecting information about the strike from my family and the few taxi drivers I took.  Basically, this is a protest because the president promised many things to the entire Cuzco region when he was elected, but has failed to follow through on them.  First, he promised to lower the price of natural gas coming from Lima to 12 soles per liter.  However, it still remains near 14 soles in Cuzco, and it’s even worse for the small, impoverished towns.  It shouldn't be so because natural gas is an abundant natural resource in Cuzco.  However, all the gas is immediately shipped to Lima without allowing Cuzco residents to access it.  Furthermore, Cuzco was promised a larger international airport so that planes full of tourists could fly here directly instead of going through Lima.  The politicians in Lima don’t want this because it would mean that less money would come to them through the airport; therefore, no plans have been made to fulfill this promise.  Overall I could see it being good for Peru because it was significantly lower the cost of trips to Cuzco, so more foreigners might come.  It is likely that the final straw was a gigantic wage increase that the ministers (you can think of them like governors) gave themselves.  They voted to triple their already high wages instead of using the funds to combat the social injustices that are taking place around the country.  I learned that of the 13 regions of Peru, the Cuzco region is the 4th poorest.  That’s absurd.  Cuzco is the tourist center of Peru, meaning a lot of foreign money is constantly pouring into the region.  Likely, all this money is lost to corruption in government and to a tiny upper class as the rest of the people suffer.  

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