When I first arrived in Cusco, Peru it won my heart immediately. Lovely, peaceful, fairy-tale-like Andean town situated in a picturesque valley, surrounded by breathtaking mountains. Beautiful architecture consisting of a mix of Inca and Spanish colonial influences. Narrow, cobbled streets, charming terracotta roofs, amazing energy and extraordinary microclimate resulting from the city being located 11,000 feet above sea level. A perfect balance between proud, rich local culture, and abundant thriving nature; which is literally within the reach of one’s hand.
When I was talking to R, who I was staying with for the first few days he said: “I lived in California. It was way too expensive. I lived in Ecuador, right on the beach. But it was way too hot and humid. And too many insects. And then; three years ago I moved to Cusco and it is perfect. And this is where I am going to stay. When people come to visit me they often say: Cusco is sixty years behind the rest of the world! And I say: Yes! And that is exactly what I love about it! I loved living in the sixties. They were the best. And if I can still live in the sixties today, I am not going to hesitate even for a moment.”
And I said: “Isn’t it amazing that with everything that is happening right now in theUkraine and Venezuela and with all the crazy things happening everywhere in the world we are here, in this beautiful, peaceful place? Does it not seem unreal?”
Fast forward 3 days.
Protests in Cusco region started with some of the local businesses shutting down for a couple of days. Later people took to the streets. Some of the businesses remained “half-open”. They were officially closed, but were secretly opening the doors to the customers; shutting them back down when the protesters were approaching, in fear of potential riots.
The protests were peaceful. But I guess you never know.
Local roads have been influenced by the protests too. So has the safety of their users. Protesters have cluttered the roads with hundreds of pounds of rocks scattered all over frequently attended routes; such as Ollantaytambo-Cusco, as well as within city limits. On the night of the protests I was on my way, in a van, with few fellow visitors on that very road. It was about midnight, we had arrived on the last train from Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo, and had to make our way up to Cusco somehow. This route is dangerous as it is; a narrow mountain road with a steep cliff on one side and a mountain wall on the other. If you add driving at night and maneuvering among huge rocks and pebble-filled bags scattered all over the road every few yards; it all adds up to a pretty scary adventure.
The protests in Cusco were originally about quite drastic and unexpected raise in gas prices and prices of utilities. Very quickly they became protests about everything; about peace, tolerance, independence, about all sorts of freedom (freedom from corruption, freedom from foreign influence, freedom from prejudice, freedom from fear of financial instability etc).
In this incredibly peaceful, quiet and happy corner of the world, where people are normally mellow and content; those two summer days of late February 2014 became the polarization of all sorts of frustration, discontent, and doubt.
It goes without saying that good, hardworking people should not be forced to lose business in order to attract some government’s attention. They should not be forced to put rocks on the roads and delay the journeys of other good, hardworking people, not to mention putting their lives in danger by doing so. Good hardworking people should have the right to lead decent lives of civil freedom and freedom of worries about whether or not they will be able to pay their utility bills and feed their families. This goes for Cusco. This goes for the Ukraine. This goes for every corner of the world. And, by God; I know that it all goes without saying, but the more we speak about it, the bigger the chances that things will change for better. It is heartbreaking to see that literally every corner of the world is troubled by unrest and human discontent. There is no way and nowhere to escape this realization. Places like Cusco, once safe heavens, idyllic, isolated towns are as close to the craziness that is taking over the world nowadays, as ever. And all these plights of all these peoples are connected. And so are we all. We are all connected to all protests happening everywhere in the world. And as long as there are plights leading to a need for people to protest, take to the streets and cry to their governments, for what they naturally deserve; it does not make Pachamama happy. It does not make any God happy. And the least we can do is talk about it, care, solidarize and support. This goes for Cusco. This goes for the Ukraine. This goes for every corner of the world in distress. They might seem far apart in terms of distance, but in fact they are closer than ever; brothers and sisters in courage, determination and strong drive to change. Peru is Ukraine. Ukraine is Peru. Everything is everything. And we are everything.