Final Rays of a Child of the Sun

Mount Ampato, where the mummy Juanita was sacrificed sometime between 1450 and 1480. (CC image courtesy of Tydence Davis on Flickr.)

Fortified by corn beer and a last meal of vegetables, a young Incan girl of noble family made the dizzying climb up Mount Ampato, where priests sacrificed her to Apu, the mountain god. Her body was recovered in 1995, preserved in remarkable condition after lying frozen for more than 500 years. Named for the anthropologist who discovered her, the mummy Juanita offers important clues to the Incan past. On the recent Honors Passport trip to Peru, students visited the Catholic University’s Museum of Andean Sanctuaries in Arequipa in hopes of seeing the child sacrifice. The mummy was removed for conservation when we visited, but the objects she took with her — a small bag with coca leaves, tiny shoes, a colorful alpaca shawl, and figurines made of gold, silver and shell – were on display, and prompted Kaitlyn Akel’s meditation on her last moments …

The priest prods me awake. The sun is rising and in my sleepy haze, I stand and try to orient myself on the steep incline. We still have a way to go, and yet we are so high up.

That’s how I know that today is the day; we are far enough away so that by the time we reach the summit, I will be exhausted enough to successfully do my part, but we are also close enough to not make the gods impatient. I’m not nervous about participating, but I am more worried for if it goes wrong. I was chosen to do this, raised for this purpose, and to have it fall through would be detrimental to all of us, I think for some time.

On our trek there is not much to see apart from the volcanic dust, sharp stones, and the sun. The blessed sun. I am doing this not only for my people, but I am meant for him, Inti. For temperate seasons, a tall, fruitful crop, and a blessed empire. Small stones and dust roll off the mountainside as we walk until I can no longer see them.

I can’t allow myself to think about the small reluctance that I feel to fulfill my destiny, because my desire to give myself to the gods is stronger. I only know that reluctance is out of fear. It doesn’t matter what I think about what’s going to happen, only that I do it. It’s not about me, but instead Inti and my people.  Continue reading

Posted in Anthropology, Honors Courses, Honors Passport/Peru, J.William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, Peru, Study Abroad | Leave a comment

Taking the Peruvian Polar Plunge

After their visit to Taquile Island, Honors Passport student Dani Carson was one of five ladies brave enough to jump into the frigid waters of Lake Titicaca, and she says she’d do it again. Read about Dani’s experience, and follow to the bottom to see the plunge yourself.

After following our tour guide Lute down the side of the island of Taquile, five of us girls prepared to jump from the roof of our boat into the cold depths of Lake Titicaca. Physically, we prepped by changing into mostly makeshift swimsuits. Mentally, the preparation included accepting how cold we were about to be, and that it may be hard to breathe in that water at 12, 500 feet above sea level, as well as facing the fact that a camera crew, eyes of our classmates, and of the crew of the boat were on us.  Despite these pressures, we all climbed up and over the metal rail to the edge of the roof. There wasn’t quite room for all of us to fit along it, so three of us went first, including me.  Continue reading

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My Peruvian Prosperity


After a short hike, Honors College student Anthony Azzun enjoys the wonderful view of Machu Picchu.

After an enlightening conversation with the girlfriend of their tour guide, honors pre-med student Anthony Azzun‘s eyes opened to the rich history of religious art in La Catedral del Cuzco. Anthony was one of 16 honors students to take part in Honors Passport: Peru, a new study-at-home-and-abroad experience offered by the Honors College.

Have you ever wondered what the apostles were eating at the Last Supper? Perhaps some bread, a little fish, a few grapes, or if you are cusqueño, maybe a chinchilla. I never imagined such a sight until I was in the Cuzco Cathedral staring up at a portrait of a feast portraying just this. But then again, there were a lot of things I never imagined I would see before I embarked on my twelve-day exploration of Peru.

Though I have an uncountable number of wonderful memories from this program, my favorite ones have been about building relationships with the incredible people I was fortunate enough to meet. As soon as we arrived in Lima, I met our tour guide, Andy, and his girlfriend, Diana. I was extremely nervous about being in such an unfamiliar place, but Diana talked me through my uneasiness. As I am aspiring to be a professional in the health field, Diana and I bonded immediately once I learned that she was a doctor. I had so many questions to ask her, but she had even more knowledge to give me. Continue reading

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Presenting Abroad: Coursework Behind the Vacation



After researching in Fayetteville, all of the students participating in Honors Passport: Peru gave a presentation at their site of interest. Honors College Fellow and English major Dylan DeLay reports on the awe of experiencing the meticulous stonework of Ollantaytambo in person.

After turning twenty and seeing a wonder of the world, it is definitely not a stretch to say that this Honors Passport has been an eventful trip for me. After speaking with Dr. Hare over breakfast one morning, I decided I wanted to write my blog post on the presentation aspect of this Honors Colloquium course.

This was far from a simple vacation. We did hard work before, during, and now after the trip. We visited every notable cathedral in every city we lodged in, observed paintings in major museums throughout the country, and wrote 300+ word journals every day on a variety of subjects pulled from extensive readings or experiences from a certain day. Largest of the assignments though were the presentations each of us had to give. We chose our topics weeks before leaving, and were instructed to focus on a certain element of the topic and give a ten minute presentation on that element.

I selected Ollantaytambo (oh-yan-tie-tahm-bo), the city travelers leave from by train to get to Machu Picchu if they don’t hike the Inca Trail. I knew absolutely nothing about the city prior to choosing it. We were required to find either a monograph on our topic or four articles/chapters about it. When I started researching it, I was enthralled by the stonework. The sources I found mostly dealt with the meticulous stonework, so I decided that would be the best thing for me to focus on in the presentation. Continue reading

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La Cocina Peruana: Lima

Our resident food critic and Honors Passport: Peru student Dennis Mitchell walks us through the tastes of Peru in a multi-part series beginning in Lima.

During my time in Peru, I have received a certain reputation. A reputation as someone who will try anything put in front of them on a plate. My role is to be a tour guide of flavor for so too will we navigate the metaphorical ‘cocina peruana’

Lima: In Lima, Peru’s capital, there are two foods and two beverages which stick out in my mind: ceviche, anticuchos, Inca Kola, and chicha morada.

Ceviche is an absolute classic in Peru. Even in the highlands, hundreds of miles from the coast, you can see signs for “cevicherias” It is mélange of raw sea food, varying in ingredients depending on where you are, but generally containing kalamari, octopus, and oyster heavily seasoned in local herbs and spices including aji and onion. Historically, ceviche traces its roots to the indigenous people of coastal Peru who often carried the seafood they caught altogether in a single pouch. Some of them would eat on the way back to the village, thus ceviche was born. Continue reading

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Don’t Let Our Smiles Fool You

group shot of students on a reed boat.

Honors Passport students board a reed boat for a tour of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. Photo by Kendall Curlee.

With bright textiles and chicha morada in abundance, the Honors Passport: Peru intersession course was a whirlwind of cultural riches. Don’t think that means that it was lacking in rigor. Dr. Laurence Hare, who led the course along with Dr. Shawn Austin, reports on the hefty reading load, on-site presentations and journal entries that were taking place behind the scenes.

During two weeks traversing southern Peru for the Honors Passport course, we have enjoyed some truly memorable experiences. From seeing a spectacular water show in Lima to rowing across Lake Titicaca in reed boats to climbing the terraces of the famed Machu Picchu, our students have had lots of fun. You can see it in the smiles that grace snapshots posted to Facebook and Instagram and in the clever posts in the Honors blog. I confess that I, too, have taken more than one selfie of my sunburned, yet still beaming visage as a way to capture these special moments.

Professor visits with group of students.

Dr. Laurence Hare leads a discussion on the readings in Arequipa. Photo by Kendall Curlee.

In fact, we have had so much fun along the way that we tend to diminish the tremendous amount of work that students have put into this course. Cultural experiences matter a great deal, of course, but I see Honors Passport first and foremost as an academic experience meant to challenge some particularly high-ability students. It is an extension of three semesters worth of investigation into world art, architecture, history, and literature. Don’t let the casual smiles of our selfies fool you. This course is rigorous. 

Continue reading

Posted in History, Honors College Study Abroad Grant, Honors Courses, Honors Passport/Peru, J.William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, Peru, Study Abroad, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A New Take on Tourism

Honors psychology/pre-med major Katie Gerth researched and presented on tourism’s impact on Peru, and learned some unexpected lessons on that subject while visiting the islands of Taquile and  Amantaní. 

As our Honors Passport trip to Peru comes to a close, I am so thankful for the opportunity to come here and learn about the people and spaces that we have been seeing, and enhancing my knowledge of these things after a semester of preparation during the third semester of H2P. I got closer with my colleagues and professors and got to learn about a culture that I otherwise really would not have known much about. However, I was expecting these things. What I was not expecting was how much of an obstacle the language barrier would be and how difficult this would be for me to deal with personally.

I have been abroad several times before, to other places that do not speak English as a first language. However, they are quick to jump to English when communicating with you and because of these experiences I was expecting this for the majority of Peru. I was very wrong. Many people know a handful of English words, but unless they are involved in the tourist industry they cannot carry on a conversation in it. Many times, our professor Dr. Austin had to translate for people which was surprising to me. I was very excited to come to Peru and go beyond the typical tourist mold and really interact with the people and learn about them. However, my Spanish knowledge was very minimal. Although I took 3 years of it in middle school and high school, I found myself struggling to communicate with the locals, even ordering food and understanding what the waiter said was sometimes a struggle.

Amantaní Island

These small interactions were not the only thing affected by the language barrier. When we went to the islands of Amantaní and Taquile, I was really looking forward to talking to the inhabitants and learning about their customs and daily life, especially because I did my research on them.  However, it was very difficult to communicate with them, and because of tourism, they are used to limited interaction with tourists anyway,  leaving that to the guide. Many of our experiences there were created by our guide and all I wanted was just to communicate with the locals to truly understand their lives, to get a more authentic experience. Not knowing Spanish was frustrating to deal with at times – I am usually a very talkative person but being nervous and just not knowing how to translate my thoughts or understand what others were saying sometimes kept me from trying to start a conversation, resulting in a less meaningful experience.

Views from the top of Taquile Island

Despite all of this though, I think this obstacle had taught me a couple of things:

  1. The first was that it is impossible to learn a language in a day but that should not stop you from trying to use the little you do know, learn from others around you, and ask questions (I asked “come se dice” a lot since it was usually only one or two words keeping me from answering someone or asking a question).
  2. The second thing I learned was that as tourists, we often adopt a mindset that everything should be tailored to us. I have learned that not only does this alter authenticity, as locals will enhance or leave out things in order to make an experience more enjoyable, but also that I shouldn’t be expecting everything to be catered to me. In order to make the most out of an international experience I think that it requires more of a give and take; for example, you should come more prepared to speak their language, understand their traditions, and know the history a little more. After all, we are guests in these peoples’ nation and the least we can do is reach out to them a little and make things easier for them as they are often trying to make things easier and more enjoyable for us.

Katie (far right) and other Honors Passport students at Machu Picchu.

This trip has not only encouraged me to become more fluent in other languages but has also given me new perspectives on tourism and international travel. With this in mind I will strive to be more conscious of diversity and actively try to interact with the environment, instead of imposing my expectations on a group of people or experience and waiting for them to serve me.

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A Day in the Life of a Vicuña


close up shot of vicunas

In response to a call to do “something different” for the Peru blog, Honors College Fellow and psych major Summer Webers channeled a vicuña. Everything you read below is completely true.

It was a perfectly overcast day. We were grazing in our field beneath the Andes mountains when we heard the first sounds of a bus approaching. We lifted our long necks to watch the bus pass by. The bus came closer and closer, with a load of Americanos staring wide-eyed at us. Oh no. Americanos. College students. We needed to get moving.

I signaled my hurd to cross the road to the other side of the field when I heard the tires of the bus come to a screeching halt. I spun my head around and saw a mass of college students and two crazy cameramen spill out of the bus. We were losing precious time.

Click. Click. Click. Their cameras captured our every movement as we drifted farther from the pack of Americanos. Then, they began to approach us. We inched back with every step they took forward.

“Take deep breaths,” I told myself as they began to pick up the pace. These Americanos weren’t acclimated to the altitude, so surely they wouldn’t be able to move very fast without getting light-headed.

I was wrong. A couple of girls began stampeding our herd as the rest stood back and watched the scene unfold. As the girls were running toward us at full speed, hair flying and hands waving, we turned on our heels and fled into the hills.

After we covered a considerable distance, we whipped our heads around to see how much progress the girls had made, which wasn’t much. They had paused; the altitude was making them light-headed and short of breath. The other Americanos were making their way slowly back to the bus, cameras and defeat in hand. We put our heads down and continued grazing.

Victory, once again. Vicunas: 1. Americanos: 0.

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Angels with Guns

The students participating in Honors Passport: Peru were introduced to the Cusco School of painters in H2P3, the third and final course in the Honors Humanities Program (H2P) sequence.  The Cusco School, one of the most important painting movements in the Americas, grew out of the Spanish conquerers’ efforts to convert the Incas to Catholicism. The students have seen many fine examples of this sometimes unusual marriage of themes and motifs in churches and museums throughout Peru. Honors College Fellow and English major Dylan DeLay reports.

The most striking and shocking depictions at the Cusco School for me were the Archangels with arquebuses. Everything else was pretty tame and expected, but angels with guns definitely got my attention. European artists tend to paint angels with more mystical powers, but these angels are depicted with the most physical of weapons. This shows how the painters of the Cusco School see power. The Spanish came in and took over using their guns, something completely foreign, and likely quite mystical to the indigenous people of the time. These angels mixed the dominative powers of the Spanish with the religion of the Spanish because the Spanish had conquered them so completely.

I think likening the angels to the Spanish could indicate two things: A) that they still possessed the view that the Spanish were almost godlike, or B) that they are humanizing and characterizing the angels as enemies, as they would have characterized the Spanish when they were being conquered. We have seen in other instances where they depict the Virgin Mary but syncretize her with Pachamama [Earth Mother venerated by the indigenous people of the Andes], so I am compelled to believe the latter of the two, if maybe less drastic than enemies. Continue reading

Posted in Art History, Art History, English, Honors College Study Abroad Grant, Honors Courses, Honors Passport/Peru, J.William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences | Leave a comment

An Inside Look at a Cloistered Life

Passage adjacent to the Claustro los Naranjos (Orange Tree Cloister), a magical space within the convent where the nuns re-enact the Passion of Christ on Good Friday every year.

Founded in 1580 by Doña María de Guzmán, a wealthy widow who became a nun, Arequipa’s Monastery of Santa Catalina takes up an entire city block. The quiet spaces and rich colors of the convent struck a chord with honors art history major Elanor Jones.  Elanor is one of 16 honors students participating in the new Honors Passport:Peru intercession course.

The sheer scale of the convent is almost definitely the most impressive part of the convent we saw today. With the sunny weather gracing us, the expansive system of bright walls and floral accents was sensory overload in the best way, each turned corner revealing a new visual delight or architecture and color. I loved the well-preserved displays that showed the way the convent once functioned, sandwiched within the currently operating convent that had to have been scaled down, allowing this set up.

Pots of geraniums bloom along a narrow cobblestone street.

One of the flower-lined labyrinthine streets inside the Santa Catalina monastery.

Walking through the courtyards it was easy to imagine a life of sitting in the sun quietly reading. This convent within a convent highlights the massive layout that held these nuns, truly making the visitor aware how it was understood as a city within a city. Considering the relatively small size of Arequipa, the city surrounding the convent, it is surprising that it was able to support such an extensive operation. Of course, the convent was not incredibly dependent on the public. Rather, the nuns supported the general population with charity services, depending on families to sponsor their daughters. It is impressive to me that sending a daughter to live this life was the more affordable option in comparison to a marriage dowry, as it was explained to us how much it cost to sponsor a daughter as a nun and the amount (if I remember correctly) was in the tens of thousands of dollars, a sizable amount by any standards.

Between the red and blue walls were bedrooms and kitchens and courtyards that suggested a life not of few possessions and solitude but one that was extravagant and fairly social for being somewhat shut off from the outside world. Servants and slaves would bring the nuns news (gossip) from the town outside and the nuns possessed fine china to put on display. As a whole the convent was an experience that exceeded expectations mostly because of the life that was still able to be felt in a dying institution, a dichotomy that projects a sense of limbo that is almost magical.

Posted in Art History, Honors College Study Abroad Grant, Honors Courses, Honors Passport/Peru, J.William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences | Leave a comment