December 11th, 2006 by budgetmonkeyanna

I woke up feeling much better and after a light breakfast that included more coca tea we decided to take a short stroll through town. The landscape in this region is mainly rocky and barren which only enhances the stark contrast with the thin line of lush greenery that travels through the bottom of the canyon. The town was once the major center of activity in the region and the location of the home of the local marquez during the spanish colonial era.

His mansion has now been converted into a small museum, community center, and library all rolled into one. The library here used to house a famous copy of Don Quixote written in Latin (which my parents saw on there travels here when they were about my age), but it was stolen in 2000 and has not been recovered. Another interesting note about the marquez who lived her is that he became the marquez when he married the 11 year old daughter if the local family in power in the region. The girl later died at the age of 22 giving birth to her first child.

The area is quite poor and even the church has not been exempt from robbery. The outside of the church is built in the same simple white-washed adobe that one can find everywhere in the Jujuy province. However the inside of the church is embellished with thick gold plating, renaissance paintings from europe, and the light from windows made of thick slabs of onyx. The woman who opens the church was very helpful and told us about all the paintings and of how the gold reliefs had been stolen in the late 1980s. Many of the onyx windows have been broken by those trying to break in. The church is now outfitted with a modern motion sensor alarm system and iron bars on the inside of all the windows. The church also houses a dress made with a lot of gold thread that had been previously attached to the statue of the virgin mary but that is now simply used as a museum piece because of fears that the weight of the dress will break the statue.

We spent most of the day here relaxing on the front porch of the hotel overlooking the fields surrounding the hill on which the town is centered. While relaxing on the porch we had the fortune to see one of the most beautiful hummingbirds I have ever seen. It was blue, green and red with a long balck and orange striped tail. Hopefully one of the many pictures we tried to take of it will come out and we will be able to post it later.

In the evening the woman who runs the hotel gave me a bag of coca leaves to chew on periodically. She said that this was the best rememdy for the “puna” (the word for both altitude sickness and the high altitude plains that we were visiting). We went for a drive through the most dramatic landscape yet, a flat mesa with dry shrubs down a straight dirt road straight towards a wall of even higher mountains with giant clouds clinging to the edges. Combined with the herds of what we’re not sure if they were vicuna or guanácos, the lightning storm to the South, and the sunset to the west behind us, it was incredible. The animals we saw whether vicunas or guanácos are graceful, amazingly adorable creatures, even Dave had to agree that they were insanely cute. After a relaxing dinner and another coca tea we were off to bed in our cozy room that I will be sad to leave tomorrow.

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