Saturday, 31 January 2009

Cusco: the world’s gayest city?

I (Ed) just wasn’t expecting it. We come through arrivals and one of the first things we see is a big rainbow flag fluttering in the thin air of 3700m beside the Peruvian tricolour (well, if a red, white and red flag counts as a tricolour). Hmm, I think. I knew that Cusco was the also known as the “gringo” capital of Peru, on account of its attractiveness to foreigners, but I never imagined it to be a bastion of liberalism.
Then we are driven into town by a driver from the hotel, and we then see it again: another rainbow flag, this time even bigger. The driver tells us he is going to take us round the Plaza de Armas, Cusco’s extensive main square, flanked by not just one, but two, churches, and what do we see? You guessed it: an even prouder rainbow flag. Hang on a second, I think, either this place is even gay friendly than San Francisco, or something else is going on. So I ask the driver what the flag means, and he looks at me like I must be stupid, or even bigoted.
Don’t you know, he says?
Are there a lot of gay people in Cusco?
He seems to draw a blank.
I try again. Are there many homosexual people in Cusco?
He blinks, embarrassed for me. I understood you the first time, he says. It’s the flag of the Incas, he continues, mildly offended.
Of course it is! I read it in my guidebook, I say sheepishly.
The driver then looks at me… and winks.

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