Dave Rogers - Incan & Wari Archaeology in Peru
Semana Santa: That means "Holy Week", - the week running up to the Easter weekend. Monday was the Zurite event of the year, where the crucifix is taken out of the church and paraded around town to the sound of a small brass band, whilst townsfolk pour red confetti (blood?) over the crucifix. Then everyone gets drunk on chicha (an alcoholic drink made of maize) and in my case tequila, which some old guy gave me. Then on Thursday it was the Projects Abroad social, so the Urubamba teaching people came here for a barbecue and a walk up to the terraces. Work on the terraces has really started to speed up recently, though no-one really knows why.
I'll tell you a little about Zurite where we live. The town is mostly constructed of various combinations of timber, mud-brick and plaster. All the houses are blessed with those curved Spanish-style tiles. There are plenty of animals too. In the morning you can watch the residents taking their little herds of cattle and donkeys to the hills to graze, and it's been commented that there are more dogs than people in the town... seems every time you go into town there's a new dog wandering around outside shops, or the little vegetable market that centres around the plaza and the main road. I say main road, but actually it's only a main road if you want to go in or out of Zurite, it doesn't lead anywhere else.
As with most South American towns, Zurite is focussed around its Plaza de Armas (main square), which is a very nice square with palm trees and everything. The story goes that when the Spaniards arrived in the region, three tribes were at war with each other (as the Incan rule was collapsing), one of which was the Zurite tribe. The Spaniards decided to give the land to the tribe that could build the best church. The result of this is a massive church right by the plaza in Zurite, and it's probably the biggest building in the town.
The town also has a full size football field which we recently painted the wall of (only the wall facing the road, thank goodness) which you walk through to get to the school. The school's not the best equipped but it has a nice "look" about it, I think.
The town overlooks a massive dried up lake that has been converted to farmland and provides a very impressive view of the towns below. The lake was only drained in the 1950s or so, so all these towns are very new compared to Zurite - however, Zurite itself only appeared after the church was built, before the Spaniards the Zurite tribe resided in a town called Timicancha, which you can still see vague outlines of across the valley although no firm ruins remain. When you work on the terraces you get to watch the rain slowly move across the valley as the dark clouds are blown towards you. A photo or video would never do it justice but it's a very impressive sight.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Programme Advisors.