My travels through South America led me to some strange places, but Cusco, Peru comes rather close to topping the list.
The city is divided into two very distinctive areas. ‘Old town’ is a relatively small area (maybe a twelve block square) of great resplendence and wealth, with colonial era buildings constructed upon the foundations of the Incan capital (which were in turn build upon the foundations of an earlier culture known as the Killke). This is the heart of tourism, and your just as likely to see a American family exploring one of the impressive squares as a local doing the rounds. Of course the locals who were to be found almost always in service to the tourist rabble, the strange irony of a city that seems to be dictated by its visitors.
The rest of the city, which wraps around the Old Town, is far more typical of the cities to be found throughout the Andes, with adobe mud brick flats to be found in tandem with massive half constructed commercial buildings filling a swelling bowl of a valley on all sides.
Since the 1980’s the city has opened up the wonderlust of Machu Pichu to the world and the city has come to embrace the tourist industry. Currently, Cusco is consumed by the trade that has made their city one of the wealthiest on the continent. There are hundreds of agencies ready to promote their way into the minds and bucket lists of ill-advised tourists and Guinea Pig, once a sacred animal to be eaten on special occasions is now one of the more expensive yet popular meals to be found in the many Amerindian restaurants of the city.
Amongst all this are the youth of the city. Education is valued very highly, particularly among the rural class yet meaningful opportunities are difficult to come by and educators are not required to receive qualifications. As the city’s wealth continues to grow perhaps more opportunities will come, but at this time the youth of the working classes find themselves in a strange place.