“I think there is a reason that everybody is here. I’ve always considered becoming a tour guide to be my reason,” says Fabricio Ortiz.
Born and raised in Cusco, Fabricio has witnessed firsthand how his home city and the Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu have gained worldwide notoriety over the years. He studied mechanical engineering at the National University of Engineering in Lima, but life steered him down a different path to becoming a Peru expert guide.
We asked Fabricio some questions to introduce you to this exceptional tour guide and member of our team.
1. Can you tell us about your family in Cusco?
Cusco is where everything started for me in my life. I think I was born listening to stories about the Incas. My mother’s grandfather, Faustino Espinoza Navarro, did many things to improve the Inca Culture and he was named as the last Inca by the Cusco Municipality. He wrote in Quechua, the language of the Incas, for example, everything there is to know about the Inti Festival of the Sun or Inti Raymi to help make it possible to never forget Inca culture. Years later he helped found the Quechua Language Major Academy which takes advantage of the Spanish alphabet to standardize Quechua terms. It is a big responsibility and a big honor to be a descendant of a person like him.
2. How long have you been guiding?
I’ve been guiding now for the past fourteen years at this point. Time passes very fast. Guiding in my life is so special and for me a simple thing to do because I get to share all the experiences I have from my childhood with all the people that come my way. All these details about how things have changed over the years are things my clients really seem to enjoy listening to.
I started tour guiding in Cusco but then started guiding in Machu Picchu because my son was on the way and my responsibilities were increasing. I was not going to wait for work. I decided to go to Machu Picchu because I could stand at the entrance and offer my services to the tourists who were arriving from around the world. I also did a lot of Inca Trail options from two to fifteen days walking through the mountains.
As my time at Machu Picchu passed I realized there were many problems and someone had to help organize things because it was in my heart. We were 85 tour guides in the beginning and I remember the first time we decided to join together. There was a private vote and I was chosen as president. Since that time we were considered by the municipality of Aguas Calientes as an organized group called the Asociacion de Guias Profesionales en Turismo Residentes Machu Picchu and we worked together on many projects.
I was chosen as president again on three consecutive opportunities. Finally, when I finished there were 220 tour guides at Machu Picchu. At first, the guides didn’t agree and wanted Machu Picchu to be closed off from other guides which cannot be done because everybody has the opportunity to work wherever they want. We love the place but we are not the owners of Machu Picchu.
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3. Do you remember your first trip to Machu Picchu?
It is a place I will always remember with my heart because it is from my childhood. I used to travel to Machu Picchu with my grandmother. She used to take me there when I was six, seven, eight years old. I remember this clearly in my mind and how the town of Aguas Calientes has changed over the years. I used to explore the archeological site with her, taking some medicinal plants in Machu Picchu which are the best for a sore throat she used to say.
4. What’s a memorable experience you’ve had as a guide?
If I were to start to tell you one by one the interesting things that I remember you would probably think I was exaggerating. You have to be in the moment, to listen, to see. Many people come all the way here from many lands mainly to see Machu Picchu.
Before entering the archaeological site I would tell them to walk behind me and look at the ground and then at flatter ground I would ask them to close their eyes and walk a few meters in front. They knew Machu Picchu was close, right in front of them, but I asked them not to open their eyes yet and I told them that it doesn’t matter all the people surrounding us, it is just you and your own experience. When they were ready I told them they could open their eyes to see Machu Picchu. Many times I heard a simple awh. Other times they were in total silence or sometimes there was emotion, tears coming from their eyes.
The responses of people make me feel special in this place and I feel like I have been made for this reason, for guiding in Machu Picchu. I think there is a reason that everybody is here. I’ve always considered my reason was to become a tour guide.
5. Can you tell us about the spiritual importance of Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu hides lots of interesting details that most of the people don’t see. I completely agree with all the natural features that can be discovered because Andean native people used to consider Pachamama, Mother Earth, as manifestations in the nature of being alive.
It is valid to say that here I see in the rocks a llama shape, a condor shape, or other animal features from the Andes which are considered Pachamama manifestations. This is the reason why the Incas used to consider places like Machu Picchu sacred areas.
Mother Earth is alive according to the Andean Incan way my friend. All I can tell you, for example, is the soil from Pachamama is like her flesh. Rocks from Pachamama are considered like her bones and water from Pachamama which runs down cascading rivers is like her blood. In this way, we are talking about a very spiritual culture that considered Pachamama to be alive and for this reason, we should keep a lot of respect for these natural features.
6. What are the best attractions to visit in Cusco?
Cusco by itself is so beautiful. For me, the most remarkable places to visit in Cusco are the Cathedral, Qoricancha, and Sacsayhuaman. I have seen free walking tours which are interesting but they are not as remarkable as the places I am guiding now. One thing I am working on is creating a new circuit for our private Cusco City Tour. If I want to introduce a new tour option, it has to be the same or better.
To say Fabricio is passionate about his job would be an understatement, and we’re thankful to have him as a member of our team. Join us on the journey of a lifetime to Peru. Contact us and an expert Travel Advisor will get started on a custom itinerary for you.
*This article was updated on April 1, 2020. The interview with Fabricio was conducted by Clement Taquet in 2017.