machu picchu – day4
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cooperatives – part two

After the market, we drove up to the small town of Maras – 11,082 feet above sea-level – to begin our hike to the salt flats. We walked through a large, rather flat, farming area at the top of the mountain. Our guides kept reminding us that the area was farmed collectively by a number of the surrounding communities. (In the Andes, the notion of working collectively is not an ideology, it’s an economic and social necessity when living in such a steep and rugged environment.)

When my mother asked what Peru was like, I answered, “Like Calabria 80 years ago.” Her comment was, “So, you’re saying that the people are poor and that they live interdependently.” The tour-guide suggested that this interdependence makes for a less aggressive and more cooperative personality. And therefore more welcoming and accommodating of tourists. (The locals are nothing like the snooty French or the disdainful Italians I’ve dealt with on other trips.)