Pisac, Peru

Portrait of Peruvian man playing a siku (panpipe), Pisac market by discovercorps on Flickr.

Pisac is a Peruvian village in the Sacred Valley on the Urubamba River. The village is well-known for its market every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, an event which attracts heavy tourist traffic from nearby Cusco. One of its more notable features is a large pisonay tree which dominates the central plaza. The sanctuary of Huanca, home to a sacred shrine, is also near the village. Pilgrims travel to the shrine every September. The area is perhaps best known for its Incan ruins, known as Inca Písac, which lie atop a hill at the entrance to the valley. The ruins are separated along the ridge into four groups: Pisaqa, Intihuatana, Q’allaqasa, and Kinchiracay. Intihuatana includes a number of bathes and temples. The Temple of the Sun, a volcanic outcrop carved into a “hitching post” for the Sun (or Inti), is the focus, and the angles of its base suggest that it served some astronomical function. Q’allaqasa, which is built onto a natural spur and overlooks the valley, is known as the citadel.

Information via the photographer on Flickr.

Sociology of Portrait Photography

Here’s a wonderful discussion of the social changes to portrait photography. The artists discuss how portraits were once only done of wealthy and distinguished people, implying that it began as a class exercise. It has more recently developed into an art form that can convey ordinary people from diverse walks of life.

Subverting Colonialism in Peru

Peru’s Señor de Choquekillca Festival is held in Ollantaytambo, near Cuzco (the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu). The festival commemorates a local saint and it also represents the Inca’s mocking of the conquistadors who invaded and almost obliterated the Indigenous Quechua culture.

Writing for the Huffpost, Andrew Burmon muses that the festival comes across as a “strange” multicultural event that doesn’t match Western ideas of multiculturalism. The festival simultaneously represents an embrace of certain elements of Catholicism which are blended with Indigenous spirituality, as well as a rejection of Spanish colonialism.

In Western nations, multiculturalism takes on many contested forms, but it is usually about tolerance of cultural and religious difference as a means of social integration of minority groups. This festival in Ollantaytambo subverts this notion by recreating the history of colonialism as an act of cultural and religious rebellion. The town honours its tradition by staging people drinking outside a church as well as by having a cross procession.

The people dress up in beautifully ornate costumes as well as grotesque masks in a celebration, condemnation and reconciliation of the past.

Senor de Choquekillca is a strange sort of festival. A religious celebration in honor of a small town boy made saint that has morphed into an occasion for trans-generational venting, Choquekillca provides the citizens of the small town of Ollantaytambo with an occasion to dress up in white face and mock the conquistadors who destroyed the Inca civilization flourishing in this part of the Peruvian Andes…

That is what is great about the party: Like history itself, it doesn’t really make sense.

Peru’s Christian faith is a spoil of war, but no less genuine for being coerced. Likewise, the Incan culture is mourned despite being obviously extant. Unlike westerners, who more often than not see multiculturalism as the amalgamation of different peoples, the people of the Sacred Valley – inundated though they are by Machu Picchu-bound travelers – are multicultural on the inside, contradictions be damned.

It is hard not to love a people not only capable of holding contradictory ideas in their heads, but willing to celebrate them in concert. 

Photos via: Huffington Post.

Corporatisation of Che Guevara’s Image

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This iconic image of Che Guevara is widely known in many parts of the world. I see it used a lot by sociology students who are eagerly exploring their sociological imaginations. As far as visual sociology goes, this image continues to inspire interest in Marxist sociology and it is used frequently in political protests, such as the Occupy movement. Stephen Colbert even dressed as Che in spoof as he set out to Occupy Occupy Wall Street. Che’s image has also been amalgamated with the unofficial face of the Occupy movement, Guy Fawkes (hero of V for Vendetta) and repacked as an Occupy t-shirt.

Continue reading Corporatisation of Che Guevara’s Image