What have the Peruvians done for us?
(15/08/2011)Aside from an impressive network of pathways covering half of South America, Peru has given us a couple of cooking staples found in kitchens all over the world, some odd looking animals and rockets!
Llamas and Alpacas
These odd-looking animals were domesticated in the high Andes surrounding Lake Titicaca from 3, 500BC. Both are believed to be descendants of the wild guanaco. Llamas were indispensible as beasts of burden for transporting goods across the Inca Empire. The soft wool from alpacas was used in exquisite weaving for members of the royal family. Llama and alpaca remain important in the economy and belief systems of people in the mountains of Peru. Still popular on menus throughout the Andes is the other animal domesticated here; the guinea pig!
Freeze Dried Potatoes
Potatoes also come from the high Andes around Lake Titicaca. Over generations, people discovered a way of harnessing the cold temperatures in the mountains to preserve their potatoes. The potatoes are spread on the ground at night when they become frozen. In the day, they are covered with straw to protect them from the strong rays of the sun. The potatoes are stamped on to remove excess moisture and then put in a stream of running water to remove the bitter taste. Once prepared, the potatoes, are edible for 4 years. Peru was the birthplace of both the potato and the tomato.
The inventor of the first modern rocket propulsion system was a Peruvian. Pedro Paulet was born near Arequipa, Peru in 1874 and designed, built, and tested the first liquid fuel rocket engine. Paulet also designed an early spaceship prototype.
Many wind and percussion instruments were developed in Peru long before the arrival of the Spanish. The most emblematic instrument of Peru is the Sampoňa; a type of pan pipe made of 5 or more bamboo pipes of differing sizes. One Sampoňa does not always have the full set of notes so the pipes are often played as a complementary pair. Another Peruvian instrument is the Cajon. This is a wooden box with a round hole in the front. Players sit on the Cajon and slap the front face as you would a drum.
The Urban Air Cleaner was invented in response to the problem of pollution in the busy Peruvian capital of Lima. The five meter high metal structure works like a tree to remove pollutants and carbon dioxide from the air. You can see the beast in areas of Lima.
The environmental impact of mining in the Amazon rainforest is a modern day problem for Peru. Peruvian engineer Carlos Villachica has invented a simple machine to isolate gold from sand without using the dangerous toxic mercury. The small machine instead uses water and biodegradable chemicals to isolate the gold.