Over the course of my time in Cusco, I have witnessed a lot of the locals’ favorites, some of which include their incredibly unique, tasty foods and clothing trends. Among these observations, I have noticed that the Alpaca, a domesticated species of South American camelid, is one of Cusco’s most prized possessions. As soon as we arrived to Cusco, women were walking around with Alpacas and asking whether or not we wanted to take pictures with them. Of course we decided to take the pictures, but these individuals were actually attempting to make a profit off of the pictures with the alpaca, as each of them cost us approximately one or two dollars. This was the first time I realized how special Alpacas are to the Cusco locals and their community. It seems as if so much of Cusco’s economy is centered on this unique animal: sweaters are made from alpaca, scarves, socks, shoes, headbands, and hats. There is even a distinction between items made from baby alpaca and items made from mother alpacas. On one hand, items made from baby alpacas, such as the $94.00 sweater I purchased yesterday evening, are worth more, as this material is soft, durable, and difficult to find. On the other hand, items made from mother alpacas, like the $5.00 headband I purchased, are less worthy, as the material is far more coarse and easier to find.
Alpaca is also found in dishes at many restaurants in Cusco. At “Greens,” a restaurant near the main Plaza, alpaca was an essential part of the restaurant’s menu—even though the restaurant is primarily known for its vegetarian options. On the menu, alpaca was in several forms—ranging from “Alpaca mini-burgers” to “Alpaca flank steak” and “Alpaca medallions.” While eating at this particular restaurant, Professor Falconi ordered barbeque alpaca mini-burgers for dinner. While the mini-burgers appeared to resemble beef or lamb, its appearance was a slightly lighter color than traditional beef or lamb dishes I’d seen in the past. According to him, alpaca tastes incredible. While I have not yet tasted alpaca, I’m looking forward to exploring this local delicacy further, as it is such an imperative part of Peruvian cuisine and culture.