Earlier this month, I was in Aguascalientes, or Machu Picchu village, a town set below this Incan wonder of the world.
I was having dinner with my husband and seated outside at a restaurant on a narrow uphill street. The next day we would go up to Machu Picchu.
You have to hike 2.5 miles straight up the mountain or take a bus to get to the sacred ruins.
Across from the restaurant was a building with part of a wall broken out. There were four men hauling construction debris, mostly chunks of concrete that they stuffed into sand bags they piled on the street. Then they stacked at least 10 to 15 bags, each had to weigh 20 to 30 pounds, into a wheel barrow and maneuvered down the steep narrow street towards the Urubamba river.
They stacked at least 300 bags of construction debris on the street.
There was a man in a dress shirt with a notebook marking down how many bags they were taking out. He was the foreman.
We asked him what they were doing and he explained that they needed the debris to shore up the Urubamba river. They would move all the bags that night.
It is rainy season in the Cusco region of Peru and as you take the train to Machu Picchu you ride past this raging river swollen by the recent rains.
Part of the road up the mountain to Machu Picchu was washed out from the rains and boulders clogged the road. Tourists taking the bus up had to get out and hike around a section of the impassable road.
In the town below, we watched the working men haul load after load down the road. One man wore a simple soccer shirt and shorts. He didn’t have on any special work clothes or equipment.
I thought of how much manpower went into building Machu Picchu in the 15th century. The stonework, terraces and Incan architecture are awe-inspiring.
It occurred to me that the people who built it then were not so different than the workers we saw hauling the concrete debris down to the river.
More than 550 years later the descendants of the Incas still work to protect their heritage.
I was in awe of their strength, of the fact that they survived the conquest of the Spaniards with their language and their culture intact.
And they continue to build and now prosper from what their ancestors created.