Machu Picchu, Part 3
The Main Street, Aguascalientes, Peru
I am sitting in the plaza in Aguascalientes, Municipalidad de Machu Picchu, 12:30 pm, 7/19/07.
A statue of Pachacutec Inka and a fountain. Music from a live band in a pizzeria. A mix of Peruvian traditional music and rock. Many tourists walk through lugging backpacks. Some sit. There is an ugly, hairless dog wearing a red vest. Shopkeepers lug the propane cannisters that arrived on the train through the square to their restaurants. Many policemen with guns and shields and vests and chevrons. Groups of local people dressed in red panchos and traditional hats, perhaps porters on the Inca trail. Groups of street cleaners in orange and green uniforms with green aprons, face masks, and brooms. Boys play wildly with a broken, plastic car. A child breaks a beer bottle on a step. A woman in a traditional, tall, white hat sits on a bench. All of this, every bit of it, is part of one of the largest, most charming tourist traps on this continent.
But there is also a real Aguascalientes, past the sprawling market the runs from the main street all the way up the hill to the modern train station. It is past the soccer field. Few tourists see it. It is dustier and quieter. And poorer. The real Aguascalientes has something to do with the recent two day, general strike. It has something to do with the policemen and their vests and riot shields and automatic weapons. The real Aguascalientes has graffiti denouncing Imperialism. To see it, you have to want to see it. Otherwise, it is a secret. It is not part of the most charming tourist trap on this continent.