My first impression of Cusco couldn’t have been better. It had been four months since I was in South America, so hearing the familiarity of a language I’m not quite fluent in was a mix of rush and relief. The breeze teased my hair and the bright sun warmed my skin, a wonderful change from the cold, cloudy town I had spent the last two months in.
I dropped my bag at a hostel and made my way the city’s Plaza de Armas nearby. These plazas were once the center of religion and power in many colonial cities, but are now usually a center for social life and tourism. Cusco’s was more commercialized than I was used to seeing, though the city did make sure the logos on the fast food restaurants (this time it was KFC and Starbucks) were in subdued colors.
Once there, I noticed two things. The first was wonderful Peruvians, who spoke clear Spanish and were eager to help. The second were men in tank tops standing at the entrance to the cathedral, who yelled to each other in drunk English and we eager to help themselves.
As the day went on, I ran into more of the types. They talked about how easy women in Cusco were, asked which massage parlors offered more than just massages, and bartered mercilessly with impoverished people over the equivalent of a dime, nearly every word yelled in a drunken cadence. They would be furious if people came to their town and did any of this, but apparently it doesn’t count when you travel.
Ignored was the mystique of the ancient architecture and culture in town. Ignored were the incredible food and the stories the descendants of Incan warriors had. People came across the world to obsess over the same things they do in every college town: sex and partying. The joy on my peers’ faces was only matched by the disdain on the Peruvians’ faces.
The world is your frathouse.
To many readers this rant probably read like an arrogant, condescending prude telling the rest of the world how to act. Maybe that’s what I am, but day one in Cusco was different. I’ve been all over the world and had yet to meet a group as disrespectful, loud, and and seedy as this one. Whatever curse struck Cusco that day was soon lifted, as the next day brought a fun mix of adventure seekers, urban explorers, history buffs, and Spanish learners.