Sunday, May 22, 2016

Urban Planning in the City of Cuzco

My first impression of Cuzco was that it reminded me of Toledo, a medieval town in Spain. I adored the cobblestone streets, old churches, and archways that surrounded the main plaza, called La Plaza de las Armas. However, yesterday myself and three other students decided to stray from the main city center and walk uphill, to see what could be found towards the less touristy areas of Cuzco. What I observed on our stroll was that although La Plaza de las Armas is an obvious meeting place and hangout spot for tourists and native Peruvians alike, it was not the only part of the city which aims to serves tourists. That is to say, I realized that Cuzco was unlike other cities I had experienced, in which there is a designated touristy area with hotels and shops. Conversely, as we walked farther and farther from the bustling plaza, I noticed that although we were obviously getting into a more residential area, there were just as many hotels and hostels lining the streets. As I peered down a street from the main drag we were walking on, I saw this:


It appeared that unlike cities in Europe, such as Paris or Madrid, there was no major distinction between the tourist and residential parts of the city. It actually seems that (outside of the area immediately surrounding La Plaza de las Armas) the main streets are lined with hotels, shops, and restaurants (aimed mostly at tourists) and the local people of Cuzco live off of these main streets, usually up into the mountains a bit. I think this sort of urban planning was very smart for a city that sits amongst mountains, because it enables a few major streets to contain tourist attractions, while still allowing the locals to live in all parts of the city. If Cuzco were to be separated into district-like areas, as many large cities are, I think it would force the native peoples to live in concentrated urban areas, for economic reasons. This is turn would create more poverty and less opportunity for integration and interaction between Cuzceños and foreigners. For example, separating these groups would mean that many older women in particular could not get to the touristy part of the city to sell handmade goods, whereas since they live on an offshoot of a main street, they are able to easily walk a few blocks and make their living selling their products. Although it seems to be obvious once you think about it, I admire the foresight of urban city planners in Cuzco for taking into consideration the lives of local Peruvians in the midst of creating a city plan that is conducive to tourism.

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