How times have changed. Throughout the streets of Cusco, once the rich, powerful capital of the Inca Empire, descendants of their warriors sit on curbs and ask you to take pictures of them for pocket change.
The Inca Empire was once the most powerful in the Americas. It controlled the land from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific coast in what is now Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, much of Chile and Argentina, and parts of Colombia. While other empires existed in the area, none challenged the Inca.
Then came the Spanish, who navigated by the stars and ended up 15,000 miles off course. The detour didn’t stop them from ignoring the Incas’ astounding, precise astronomical knowledge and calling them savages instead.
These savages created a way of keeping records that the rest of the world still hasn’t solved. This knowledge was deleted, possibly forever, and replaced by the Latin alphabet, as if the two were mutually exclusive.
The Spanish built granite cathedrals over precise architecture and tried to teach everybody Catholicism and Spanish in place of their intricate religions and languages. Every step of the way they replaced the “savages'” complicated culture with a simpler one.
The empire shrank and shrank as the Spanish empire grew; the people become poorer and poorer as their gold and silver was shipped to Spain. Few locals profited, put in charge by colonial powers to send wealth to Spain and keep the locals in line.
The trend slowed but ultimately never stopped. While the world travels to lands once revered, worshiped, and feared, the money goes to a few who operate travel agencies while the rest struggle with poverty.
Their holy sites and temples have been stripped of significance, turned into photo ops. Their traditional dress is now worn by women asking you to take pictures with them as if they’re zoo animals.
While the Spanish no longer hold absolute power, it’s was never returned to the indigenous tribes. Many locals, once subservient to foreign visitors to avoid the use of force, now serve them to avoid hunger.