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Culture — Ancient Cultures of Latin America

by Brandi

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March 31st, 2010

This week’s Spanish culture lesson, we will discuss ancient some of the ancient cultures of Latin America.  In ancient Latin American there are many cultures, people and legends. Three of the most famous groups of people are the Aztec, the Maya, and the Inca. The Maya are from a more ancient time period in Mexican history. The Aztecs are from a more recent era; they were found when Hernan Cortez, one of the “conquistadores,” came to Mexico in 1519. The Incas were a people in ancient South America who lived specifically around the areas of Peru and Ecuador.

In Mexico there are numerous majestic and mysterious ruins that leave the legacy of a vanished people. In Peru, there are also several incredible ruins. I had the opportunity to live in Peru for an extended period of time and was to see some fascinating ruins in northern Peru. However, there are many incredible ruins in Southern Peru that I never had a chance to visit. Many of my native friends told me all about these mysterious ruins. As soon as my children become teenagers, I plan to take them and my wife to visit the remarkable ruins of southern Peru.

One of the most well-known sites in southern Peru is called Machu Picchu [maw-choo pea-choo.] It is in the southern part of Peru in the Cuzco area. Machu Picchu is a breathtakingly beautiful city high up on top of one of the Andes Mountains where some of the ancient Inca lived (see photo above.) There is now a train that takes tourists from the base to the top of the mountain where the city is located. Some native friends in Peru told me about the incredible water system that exists in Machu Picchu. According to them, scientists have discovered that the water system, which was engineered by the ancient Inca, goes from the base of the mountain up to the top by somehow climbing up underground steps built into the mountain. The water system is still in existence today and water still flows at the top of the mountain providing water for the city below.

The next Peruvian ruin we are going to explore is very mysterious. It is called Las Líneas Nazca (The Nazca Lines.) Nazca is a coastal city in southern Peru. It is a sandy and desert-type area with huge trenches in the sand. If you fly in an airplane over Nazca, the trenches become huge shapes somehow created or drawn in the sand. According to my knowledge, there are about 300 total shapes that can be seen from an airplane but cannot be deciphered from the ground. Now, the mystery is, how did the shapes get in the sand? They have been there for as long as anyone knows. Supposedly, an ancient civilization called the Nazca built them. The question that baffles scientists is: how were they built if the people didn’t have airplanes to see them from above?
The Discovery Channel calls the Nazca Lines “The greatest scratch pad on Earth.” They go on to describe them as: “Huge geometric patterns and spirals, animal figures and thousands of perfectly straight lines that go on for kilometers. The Nazca lines – one of the most baffling enigmas of archeology.”

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