Cusco is a city of about 400,000 and is located in the southeast-central part of Peru. The elevation is about 3,300 meters, or 11,000 feet. At this altitude the air is very thin and dry. Visitors often feel out of breath doing tasks that would be simple at sea level. Town plazas fill the city center and are surrounded by beautiful statues, cathedrals, and trees. This creates a very relaxed and historic atmosphere. There are several large open air markets with delicious produce, beautiful crafts, and cheap local delicacies. Cusco was the capital of the mighty Inca Empire from 1400-1532. Ancient ruins of the Incas, such as Machu Picchu are located nearby. The surrounding area is filled with farm lands and small villages such as Zurite.
Zurite is a town of 1,500 people located 1.5 hours by automobile west of Cusco. From the town square of Zurite, you can see the glaciers that spill into the Sacred Valley, where the Urubamba River flows past Machu Picchu and into the Amazon. Above the town are some of the oldest Incan-era terraces still in use today. Children attend school and adults work, but everyone also works to cultivate food to support their own existence. In the fields and terraces, Zuriteños grow corn, wheat, beans, quinoa (a grain that is very rich in protein), potatoes, and alfalfa to feed their livestock.
Students from San Antonio University in Cusco work with local high schools students and discuss ideas for community development projects. They have discussions relative to Cusco and other participating locations of GSE. Program directors in Cusco will choose students for travel to the United States in January and February of 2010, and will also help to organize the implementation of a community development for the summer of 2010, when students from California travel to Peru to work in Zurite and in Cusco.
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