The central square of Pallasca is deserted and silent in the glaring white sun of the high Andes.
An old colonial church, built in 1625 by the Spanish monks, is crumbling, rotting away, paint peeling, walls slowly cracking and disintegrating, ghost houses surrounding the plaza abandoned and boarded up, save for a few, and the little crooked streets of cobblestone and dirt and clay run off into the labyrinth of Pallasca carving their way through a maze of decrepit, hollow houses covered in red tiles, broken, overgrown with moss, some now used for pig enclosures, pitiful laundry drying in the icy cold rays of the highland sun as the wind sifts the dust and the debris like a blind, vagrant wraith from the days of the past.
On the corner of the plaza, under a looming shadow of a Spanish villa, an old Quechua woman sits selling Andean herbs and bananas that had long gone black, her face half-covered by a wide-brimmed hat, squinting, dozing, she has been dreaming open-eyed, not noticing the dust and the sand that the wind had kicked up in her face, as if she herself had become a part of Pallasca, a stone in the cobbled street or an old wooden banister of a decaying gallery or a heavy silver ornament on one of the windows, long gone now, long forgotten.
Walking the crumbling, narrow streets smelling of moist earth, pig shit and sunsets, we abruptly come to a halt, this is where Pallasca ends, suddenly, in a pile of rock and stone, next to a rambling clay brick house, covered in soot, crippled and misshapen, the roof almost touching the ground now, and out in the yard overgrown with wines and coarse highland grasses, on a bench made from grey stone, maybe a tombstone – a strange lopsided obelisk – there is an old couple sitting. She is knitting a woolen mantilla, humming to herself softly, her fingers wrinkled, gnarled from arthritis. He is looking out at the menacing jagged peaks of the Andes, painted crimson and scarlet by the setting sun, his head trembling a little. They smile, and nod, and wish us good evening, good evening.