1. Random parades
Nothing else made for a better lazy weekday afternoon than sitting at the table outside of a local restaurant and chowing down on the local menu of the day as the nearest intersection was blockaded for the parading of one of the many Catholic saints and a jovial band’s rendition of local songs
2. My favorite local tamale vendor
Not only were the Cusqueñan tamales to die for and unique as the region that they come from, but my neighborhood tamale vendor was an elderly woman with a huge grin who always seemed to offer both the biggest smile and an extra shot of sweetened black coffee to get me through my day
3. Local history, everywhere
Cusco’s rich history waits around every alleyway and corner. Taking just five minutes to walk outside of a normal route can always elicit an entire afternoon’s worth of wandering and thinking about the colorful lives of ancient Incas, the Spanish conquerors and the dirty hippies whose bare feet have touched the stones of the city.
4. The best mix of discoteca music around
Sure you can go to any club and hear the pop top 40s in any city in the world, but where else can you go to dance salsa and live local wino and grind it up against all the tourists all in one night?
5. Quechua as a native language
Not much else beats meeting a new local friend on the street and having him or her teach you a new phrase in Quechua, the local indigenous language. Even the taxi drivers delight in giving you the best and most unique phrases, and even just hearing your friend’s grandmother talking loudly in Quechua makes the experience of living in Peru all the more authentic. Spanish is one of the native languages of Peru, but Quechua was there first!
Nikki “Lucero” Ellis is a junior at Iowa State University who studies English Education, Spanish, and English as a Second Language. In her free time she loves to dance salsa, cook, listen to vinyl records, and practice her Spanish. One day, Nikki will return to Peru for good and eventually open her own bilingual school, nonprofit, and bakery.