We are in a very interesting moment in human history. A few days ago, an important news story informed us that CO2 emissions have reached the highest level ever in the lives of humans. We’re sure that you already know about the five huge plastic islands in the ocean and that NASA has announced that it seems we’ve reached a point where the melting of Antarctica is irreversible.
Your trip to Cusco may be the perfect moment to think about how we human beings lost our connection not just with our land but also with our own food. Andean culture will help you to understand better what is going on and also give you the opportunity to do something about it step by step, little by little.
We found 3 simple tips for you to follow if you want to take care of yourself and the planet, eating delicious, healthy food without generating plastic waste awhile also taking care of your budget.
1. Don’t be scared of street food (it’s all over the place): The abundance of food available in the streets of Cusco is truly impressive, and it depends on you whether or not plastic is used to consume it. The options are varied, so we’ll focus on the healthiest foods you can find. In this way, you’ll not only take care of your health but also the health of the planet. In the end, the planet and you are one.
If you’re walking down the street and are thirsty, you don’t need to buy drinks in plastic bottles because you’ll find a huge variety of natural, nutritional and medicinal drinks. For example, chicha made of quinoa, a sweet delicacy of one of the most nutritional foods in the world, has as much protein as milk and is much more nutritional than drinks made of wheat, corn or oatmeal. On top of the quinoa chicha, there are many other delicious drinks you can find on the street like chicha morada (made from purple corn), barley water, passion fruit drinks, orange juice (squeezed right in front of your eyes!) and the well-known “emoliente”, a medicinal mixture of several herbs found all over the city as soon as nighttime falls. Before giving you your drink, the vendors will ask you: “¿Para tomar aquí o para llevar?” (To drink here or to go?). If you say “para tomar aquí” (to drink here), they’ll use a cup made of glass to serve you, and in this way, you can avoid using plastic. You know, in Cusco it’s possible to hydrate easily, drinking something healthy and natural without using plastic.
You’ll also find many options on the street if you’re hungry and don’t want to use plastic. On public streets, it’s possible to find vendors with excellent fruits: huge bananas, juicy oranges, sweet-smelling apples, delicious mangoes, grapes, etc. Of course, everything transgenic-free. The variety of fruits you’ll find depends on the season in which you visit Cusco. For example, in January, February and March, you’ll be able to enjoy delicious tuna (cactus fruit) to refresh yourself in the heat; likewise, in June, it will be a lot easier to find sugar cane and coconuts. You’ll also find traditional tamales, the delicious appetizers made of corn flour and wrapped in corn husks. They don’t need any artificial wrapper! Another great alternative to satisfy your hunger without generating plastic residue is the traditional anticuchos, pieces of grilled meat that you’ll find on the street at night.
2. Visit traditional markets (found all over the city): The city of Cusco is filled to the brim with incredible, traditional markets where you can find healthy foods, not industrialized, in bulk, and, if you’d like, without the necessity of using plastic. Due to their great prices and the quality of their products, these markets bravely weather the establishment of supermarkets and big malls who use plastic indiscriminately. You just need to bring your own bags – preferably made of cloth – and tell the vendors: “Sin bolsa, caserita” (No plastic bag, please).
If your hotel is in the Historical Center of Cusco, you’ll be able to visit the markets of San Pedro, Ccascaparo, San Blas and Wanchaq. Other incredible options are the markets of Huancaro, Ttio, San Sebastian and Vinocanchón in San Jerónimo, however, they are a bit further away.
These markets are huge and usually organized by the product being sold. You’ll find sections of fruits, grains, beef, chicken, fish, vegetables, potatoes, etc.
You’ll also find healthy foods (from simple, but delicious plates like rice with an egg to soup vendors and ceviche, all at a great price!) and a section for fruit juices. You can choose the fruits you want them to use to prepare your juice, and they’ll serve it to you in a glass! First-class food without the necessity of using plastic.
3. Learn from Andean culture and the strong cultural identity of Cusquenians: The inhabitants of the city of Cusco are characterized by their profound cultural identity. Although racism and discrimination are still seen daily due to a persisting colonial mentality, you can feel the reemergence of the Andean culture in diverse places. And what’s one of the main characteristics of the Andean culture? Well, the close relationship of human beings to the Pachamama or Mother Earth.
We consider that a re-discovering of the true sense of the Andean culture could be the key to the fight against contamination on this planet. If the people of Cusco recuperate the ideal values and cosmovision of the Andean culture, it could radically change their habits as consumers and make them the principal opposition to plastic use.
Unlike western cultures, in the Andean culture, human beings aren’t the center of the universe but its companion, on equal terms with animals, rivers, mountains and other beings that coexist on the planet. In Andean culture, everything is alive – sun, rocks, wind – and with all of these elements, you can converse as if they were people. Can you imagine it? It’s like this: there’s a link of love and co-dependence between all beings who live in the ukhu pacha (underworld), the kay pacha (the world of the here and now) and the hanaq pacha (the world above, of the deities). Thanks to the Andean cosmovision, one can clearly understand the connection we have to nature, and that connection should call us to urgent change.
So please, remember that your trip to Cusco may not just change your heart and soul, but also may help you to reconsider the way you want your future to be.
Main photo: @alisonarmstrong6558, thank you so much for understanding our hearts through your photos.