Tracing Andean Culture: From Peru to Argentina
This past weekend, I visited the province of Jujuy in the northwestern corner of Argentina. Bordering northern Chile and Southern Bolivia, Jujuy has strong historical ties to the Andean culture that is more prominent in its neighboring countries. With roots in the pre-Inca period, the cultural unity of the various indigenous groups that lived in the Andes shaped this region. Then in the 15th century, the Inca Empire expanded from what was known as “Alto Peru” past Jujuy as far south as Mendoza, Argentina. Within walking distance from “downtown” Tilcara, one of the sites we toured was Pumara de Tilcara. Partially reconstructed from archaeological digs, this location has ruins from an indigenous group. The Inca influence on the local culture was visible in the construction of the patios outside the small buildings. According to our tour guide, only after the Incas conquered the area did the indigenous people (today’s Argentines) begin using stones on the patios (before it would have been just dirt). One of my favorite parts of the trip was seeing the contemporary mix of Argentine and Andean cultures. Spending the weekend in Jujuy brought back many memories of my previous travels to Peru. There was also a fusion of Argentine and Andean culture. The brightly colored textiles and alpaca wool products that I remember ever so clearly from Peru were all present, but with an Argentine twist: they incorporated strips of leather! The cultural blending could also be experienced at meals. From the introduction of llama meat to the daily diet of cow beef, Jujuy offers an Argentine version of the Andean culture. A traditional drink, yerba mate, made from a local bittersweet herb, was also a popular beverage. Consumed any time of day in Buenos Aires, it’s not uncommon to see porteños walking around with their mate thermos in a convenient leather carrying case. The traditional warm drink in the Andes region is a tea made with cocoa leaves. So how do they mix the two? At one market, we found a mate cocoa tea combination that mixed the flavors of both Andean and Argentine favorites. Overall, the trip to Jujuy brought back pleasant memories of Peru and my trek on the Inca Trail, and I enjoyed seeing more of Argentine’s claim to the Cordillera de los Andes.