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Why travel: To appreciate other cultures

Todos Santos, GuatemalaSome travellers define culture narrowly. When I told a colleague that I was going to Latin America again she said she was heading to Europe because she wanted a cultural vacation. Like there is no culture in Latin America? Latin America oozes culture; it’s just that it’s different from her own.

Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Peru are home to three of the greatest civilizations ever: Mayan, Inca, and Aztec. These countries have large indigenous populations. In Peru, half the population is indigenous and many continue to speak their ancient tongue and preserve much of their traditional way of life. Over 40 per cent of Ecuador’s 11.5 million inhabitants are Amerindian and of these 10 per cent still speak Quichua. Nearly 50% of the population of Guatemala is of Indian ancestry and follow ancient customs and dress, living much as they have for thousands of years. There are about two thousand Guatemalan villages and the dress in each is somewhat unique, distinguished by the type of embroidery, colour, design and shape.

The Maya were building cities and ceremonial centres that were larger than any in Europe during the time of Christ. These magnificent centres can be found in Guatemala and the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Mayan research into mathematics, astronomy and the measurement of time is considered to be astonishing.

The Inca Empire arose in the highlands of Peru around 1200 and was one of the largest empires in the world at the time of its collapse. The vast Inca territory stretched along the Andes mountain range from Chile to modern-day Columbia. The Incas were perhaps best known for their engineering works and architecture. The Emperor was believed to have descended from the sun.

The Aztec Empire controlled vast lands stretching from the Yucatan Peninsula to the Pacific. Their capital, Tenochtitlan, located outside Mexico City was known as the place where gods were made. They are most famous for their Aztec calendar.

If you are looking for culture you will certainly find it in Latin America!

By Sylvia Fanjoy

© Riding the buses 2010

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