The land of Inca

1 November 2007
7:21 PM

After just three days in Peru Roy and I have realized that we are incontrovertibly in Inca territory. How, you ask. It could be the exotic city names: Ollantaytambo, Urubamba, and Sacsayhuamán. It could be the ancient buildings and ruins scattered throughout downtown Cusco. It could be the golden fog that envelopes the landscape. It’s not. This is Inca country because of branding.

Sure, the names, the ruins, the oh-so-lovely golden mist help, but Peruvians have leveraged the name Inca for all it’s worth. They stamp it on everything. It’s like Disney World where you can’t buy cotton candy unless it’s Disney® Cinderella Cotton Candy. In Cusco you can withdraw cash from an IncaMatico ATM. You can fill your prescription at IncaFarma. You can buy a pizza at Inca Hut. You can munch Inca Granola, stay at IncaLand, and rent at Inca 4x4. I haven’t seen many iPods here in Peru, but I bet they would be a real hit if Apple just marketed them as incaPods.

The biggest Inca product produced in Peru is, without a doubt, Inca Kola. Peru is one of the only countries where the local soda outsells Coca-Cola. The beverage is yellow, sweet, tastes something like banana bubble gum, and it’s everywhere. We had only been in the airport for 15 minutes before I overheard a woman ordering Inca Kola. You know when you go to a restaurant and ask for a Diet Coke and the waiter says, “Sorry, we only have Pepsi—is Diet Pepsi OK?” Well, we went to a restaurant in Cusco, I asked for a Coke, and the waiter said, “Sorry, we only have Inca Kola.” This doesn’t seem to be a problem though, because, unlike my example where I really did want a Diet Coke, nobody here seems to want anything except Inca Kola.

Later this week we’re headed to Machu Picchu. Although the site’s exact purpose is still a mystery, these days it is identifiable as one of the cornerstones of the Incan image. Ironically, it’s pretty much the only thing around here that doesn’t have Inca in its name.

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