For many, the future after COVID means travel again. But after more than a year of sitting at home, a contentious election, a cultural reckoning with racial injustice, it’s not just about normal travel.
The increased focus on cultural competence promises a return to exploration that seeks to better understand other cultures and embrace the inherent value of Indigenous peoples through travel.
Not surprisingly, industry experts agree that travel looks different than it did a few years ago: Many people are looking less for tourist destinations and more for the trips we plan.
I recommend exploring and visiting native or indigenous sites, including sites in different regions and countries of Latin America.
ORIGINAL HERITAGE SITE TO USE
When we contextualize our travel experiences, we need to consider the impact we have and what we can learn from outside our own country.
Eurocentrism and a well-developed tourist infrastructure in Western Europe, combined with a falsely negative security in Latin America, have deterred travelers from exploring precolonial sites in the Americas that deserve recognition not only for their natural beauty, but also for their contribution to architecture. , art, history and culture.
In 2019, 4.68 million visitors from the United States visited Latin America. Compare this to 11.92 million visitors in Western Europe alone, excluding Southern, Eastern or Northern Europe. We should change our perception and see the world with a wider lens.
But why? The 2021 Encyclopedia Britannica History of Latin America webpage begins with “This article covers the history of Latin America from the first European occupation to the end of the 20th century, initially considering indigenous and Iberian backgrounds”.
That “first consideration” is a paltry 318 words ending with “Somehow sometimes a common term is needed, and if you understand its limitations, ‘Indian’ can work just as well as any other”, referring to all indigenous peoples. Peoples of Central and South America.
In our quest for greater cultural competence in the 21st century, it is imperative that we destroy ourselves, and travel can be a great gateway to greater understanding.
Of course, the future is uncertain: COVID-19 has spread across Latin America, as an underfunded healthcare system struggles with the inability of many to access safe and long-lasting lockdowns.
While the region is struggling now as vaccines are postponed and governments recover, we need to expand when it is safe to travel. Let’s shift our hyper-focused Eurocentric views to some of the world’s oldest independent civilizations that shaped culture here in the United States, even though their effects have been buried under colonization and centuries of erasure.
If you go to Latin America, don’t miss the chance to visit these pre-colonial heritage sites that are both breathtaking and steeped in history.
Ingapirca, the largest known site of Inca ruins in Ecuador, is a spectacular site at an elevation of 10,500 meters with panoramic views of the surrounding valley.
It was partially destroyed in the 16th century by Spanish settlers who used the stone to build their own churches. The place was long gone and fell victim to the war between Huascar and Atahualpa during the Inca Civil War (circa 1527).
Ingapirca is unique: it is a mix of Inca and Canarian architecture, inhabited by the native Canarians long before the arrival of the Incas in the late 16th century. How the Incas crossed the Canary Islands is an unresolved debate, but there is evidence that the two lived together peacefully in this settlement.
The ruins stretch across the lawn below, but the highlight is the Temple of the Sun, the only building of its kind built after the Inca Empire and well preserved for its age: it was the site of rituals including Inti Raymi (the sun) The festival is celebrated on the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, which is the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere), which is still celebrated every June.
The temple is located on top of the ceremonial rock of ancient Canari and was probably used to determine the agricultural and religious calendars. Its stunning beauty and unique structure are worth the trip from nearby Cuenca, 70 km away by bus.
ISLA DEL SOL (BOLIVIA) HERITAGE SITE
The largest island on Lake Titicaca is Bolivia’s picturesque Isla Del Sol, a destination with a rich pre-colonial history.
The island is an incredibly important place in Inca mythology, the supposed birthplace of the first Incas (Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo). One story suggests that Manco Capac, son of an Andean deity identified as the sun, emerged from the sacred rock of Titi Qala, the reddish sandstone that gives the lake its name.
But beyond its mythological significance, Isla Del Sol is simply beautiful: from the worn cobblestones of the Pillkukanya temple to the breathtaking vistas of the snow-capped Andes across the lake.
The island has an indigenous population who live in cities where much agriculture and fishing is practiced. I had the chance to visit before the pandemic – the only tourist I saw was a hiker and I got to hang out with the person who runs the inn and get to know the island directly from them in an intimate way. Friendly environment.
Nothing beats it. It’s secluded and cozy at the same time. This island has over 80 ruins dating back to the 15th century and is home to the labyrinthine archaeological site of Chinkana.
As the sun sets over the water, the night sky offers a breathtaking display of the natural beauty of the universe, away from the light pollution of big cities.
Across the Yucatan Peninsula are Mayan ruins noted for their architectural beauty and integrity, some beautifully preserved, but all are well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
I have organized youth programs in Yucatan. Virtually all of our host communities had a pyramid, and many had cenotes, incredibly beautiful natural sinkholes made of collapsed limestone with sparkling pools of water.
There are several extraordinary pyramids in Yucatan that are unmatched in beauty and history.
Palenque is the ruin where archaeologists first began to understand the Mayan calendar, hieroglyphics and astronomy through detailed writing and graphemes. It is elegantly designed, with reliefs illustrating Mayan mythology in dense jungle.
Commonly called the most beautiful ruin in the Yucatan, Uxmal was one of the largest cities on the peninsula, with a peak population of 20,000. Abandoned in 1541, but now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 150-acre pyramid is dominated by rounded corners (characteristic of Puuc architecture).
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chichen Itza is a city that combines Mayan and central Mexican structures throughout its 1,000-year history.
Although the Tolecs were expelled from Mexico between 967 and 987 AD. When the city was conquered by the Tula king Ce Acatl Topiltz Quetzalcoatl, the Monuments are masterpieces of Mesoamerican architecture, undeniably beautiful and sophisticated buildings.
There is really no such thing.
HERITAGE SITE OF MONTE ALBAN (MEXICO).
Rising from the bottom of the Valley of Mexico, the historic center of Oaxaca and one of the first cities of Mesoamerica is another UNESCO World Heritage Site: Monte Alban.
Considered the most important in the Oaxaca Valley, this archaeological site sits atop a mountain range overlooking the city and has provided us with important information about the Zapotec civilization (one of the greatest cultures of Mexico’s more than 60 indigenous peoples) through hieroglyphs and carved reliefs. , many of which are now safely housed in a nearby museum.
In addition to the splendid panoramic views, it houses the ruins of a once bustling city: the main square is surrounded by terraces, pyramids and a playground for playing tlachtli, the remains of a city built before 200 AD.
With its pyramids, burial chambers and probably the first observatory in Mesoamerica, Monte Alban is a place worth visiting just a few kilometers from Oaxaca.
While we wait for a world where we can travel safely again, we should try to develop our sense of the world: no Latin American city is in the top 10 most popular cities in the world.
This is not an invitation to transform the entire continent into a tourist destination, but a humble request to make more culturally competent citizens of the world. A Google search for “Guidebooks for Europe” returns 5.79 million results, while “Guidebooks for Latin America” returns only 629,000 results.